*The Bulldogs have only faced one East opponent in the early season, losing by a point at Tennessee; the only common opponent to-date. The Gamecocks are 0-1 against the West after losing at Louisiana State. Their other win was a homecourt rout of Georgia.
About the Gamecocks
There have been some hard times on the hardwood in Columbia, until last winter when the pieces came together and South Carolina re-emerged on the NCAA scene after a five-year absence. Dave Odom's third season with the Gamecocks was the best yet, only the second winning year for USC of the last six with a 23-11 record and break-even finish in the SEC good for third place in the East. And there was that first NCAA berth since ‘98, which even if the Gamecocks went out in the first round was a reward. But a year later USC might be shaky again, even with three starters and six other veterans on the roster. A 5-0 start against typically lightweight opposition did not hold up against quality competition with losses to Clemson, Kansas, and Pittsburgh, and then Kentucky to open SEC play. South Carolina has also sputtered on the road, losing all four games on opposing courts. So this weekend, coming after an open date, is a critical juncture if USC hopes to earn another trip to postseason play. In four conference games the Gamecocks have put up respectable stats, ranking fourth in scoring, third in field goal shooting, and fourth in three-point accuracy. The defense hasn't been nearly as strong, and rebounding is a definite issue. There is balance in the lineup, with senior bruiser Carlos Powell leading USC in both scoring (15.3) and rebounding (6.3). He's also second in SEC shooting at 59.6% accuracy. The perimeter has some punch, too, with a couple of double-digit scorers in playmaker Tre Kelly and tall Tarence Kinsey and senior Josh Gonner coming off the bench to shoot longballs. But USC still ranks last in the league in made-treys with 77 through 15 games. And there's not a lot of height in the roster as a whole, reflected by those rebound totals. Add it all up and South Carolina looks like a club that can go either way the rest of SEC season. They have the experience and starting lineup to finish in the top half of the East and stay in contention for postseason consideration. But they also have enough question marks that, with a few bad bounces, the Gamecocks could come up a game short in what looks like a three-way fight for third in the Division. That is why stealing a road win against a West club is so vital to USC hopes, and why Mississippi State must be prepared for a rested and ready visitor.
Probable Starting Lineups
South Carolina: F Carlos Powell, 6-7 SR, 15.3ppg, 6.3 rpg; F Brandon Wallace, 6-9 SO, 5.5ppg, 4.7rpg, 25 blks; C Antoine Tisby, 6-8 JR, 4.9ppg, 4.4 rpg; G Tre Kelly, 6-0 SO, 10.1ppg, 54 asts, 17 3ptrs; G Tarence Kinsey, 6-7 JR, 9.8ppg, 3.1 rpg, 15 3ptrs.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.4 ppg, 108 asts; G Jamaal Edmondson, 5-9 JR, 4.5 ppg, 18 3ptrs; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 7.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg; F Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 28 3pts.
Scoring: MSU 74.7%, USC 69.5ppg
Scoring Defense: MSU 63.4%, USC 61.5
Rebounding: MSU 42.3rpg, USC 34.1rpg
Rebounding Margin: MSU +9.4, USC +0.6
Shooting: MSU 45.5%, USC 47.3%
Shooting Defense: MSU 38.5%, USC 41.5%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 32.8% (111/328), USC 32.5% (77/235)
Three-Point Defense: MSU 29.0% (124/428), USC 30.3% (82/271)
It's not a long rivalry, as the teams managed not to meet until South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992. Since then there have been just 14 games, and Mississippi State leads 9-5. The Bulldogs won the first four games, and have won the last three meetings, while the Gamecocks dominated from 1996-2001. State is 5-1 in Humphrey Coliseum, with the only homecourt setback in 1997. USC won the only game played in a SEC Tournament, in Nashville in 2001…their last victory in the series. Rick Stansbury is 5-2 against South Carolina, while Dave Odom is 0-3 against State.
Did You Know?
*South Carolina is the only SEC rival, other than Mississippi, that Mississippi State has a lead in the all-time series. The closest other rivalry is with Georgia, as the UG Dogs lead 47-45 all-time.
*There has been one overtime game in the series, won by the Bulldogs last February in Columbia 79-75.
*The USC roster shows only two players from the home state, Carlos Powell (Florence) and Brandon Wallace (Jackson).
Bulldog Game Notes
*The Bulldogs have lost their last two road games, and along with them perhaps their ‘road warrior' status. But the homecourt is still very friendly for State with a nine-game winning streak going, and the last seven victories at The Hump have come by a 25-point average. In SEC wins over Auburn and Arkansas the Dogs have outscored the visitors by 37 and 25 points. *Despite a lopsided loss at Alabama, the Bulldogs continue to lead the league in both rebounding margin and in field-goal defense. They are also second in three-point defense.
*Senior forward Lawrence Roberts continues to lead the SEC in rebounding at 11.2 boards, and his NCAA-leading rebound total is now up to 1,012 including two years at Baylor.
*Roberts has notched nine ‘double-doubles' this season, best in the SEC, and his 47 career ‘dds' leads all active NCAA players. Roberts has scored 100 points in his five league games, and pulled down 52 rebounds.
*Center Marcus Campbell has scored in double-figures three of the five SEC games played, and each time the Bulldogs have won. The senior had just two and nine points in MSU's league losses.
*Rick Stansbury is 56-45 in his 101 SEC games coached at State. He is both third among MSU mentors in league wins, and in winning percentage (55.4%).
Mississippi State has the first ‘open date' of its SEC season as they take Wednesday night off before traveling to LSU for a 2:00 game next Saturday. The Gamecocks host Vanderbilt on Wednesday.