*Both teams are not ranked, though State is receiving votes in both polls after dropping out on January 31…right after that loss to LSU. Until then the Dogs had been ranked from the preseason through eleven pollings.
*This game concludes the only two-date SEC ‘homestand' of the season for MSU in the 2005 schedule. State has to play back-to-back road games twice this spring, the second such swing upcoming immediately with contests at Kentucky and Georgia.
About the Tigers
For a while there it seemed John Brady's bunch was building a head of steam and was about to make a serious run at another postseason bid. And the Tigers still might do it, only now they will have to scramble even harder. Close but ugly losses at Tennessee and Arkansas have let all the momentum built up in an impressive stretch of five wins (including the one against State) in six games evaporate, along with a grip on #2 in the West. That wouldn't be so bad if LSU had piled up an impressive pre-SEC resume; they didn't. So, the Tigers have their work cut out for them now to get into better NCAA position before the league tournament…thus the emphasis on that first-day bye, which might mean more for LSU's case than it would for State's if the projected RPI's are believable. The last four games of February are certainly a make-or-break run, featuring home games with Florida and Alabama after LSU gets back from Starkville. This starting five certainly should be up to the challenge; the whole darn tipoff team averages double-digit points with an excellent balance. Make no mistake, the focus starts inside with the muscular tandem of soph star Branden Bass and ‘Baby Shaq' Glen Davis. They're likely the best frontcourt pair in the SEC and as good as can be found anywhere, though rookie Davis still gets on the bad side of officials sometimes. Bass, who can score from all over now, has developed into the premier player all expected and should have been on the Wooden Award finalists list. If he comes back for a junior season, he will be in '06. The key with LSU is the backcourt. These guys can shoot and they can score, but inconsistency here has been the team's downfall. If the threes aren't dropping, opponents swarm the big men and the offense grinds to a halt. Shot selection has been questionable at times, too. Brady is probably more concerned about giving up 73 points on 46% shooting, though lack of depth might mean LSU has to be careful about how tough they dare defend some nights. MSU has cause to rue the 15 bench-points scored at Baton Rouge, as that was the difference in the game. Tiger backups aren't usually that productive, which just has to have an effect on the starters as this season grinds on. Or will it? The next two weeks will likely tell, along with settle whether State or LSU has Thursday night-off in Atlanta.
Probable Starting Lineups
L.S.U.: G Darrel Mitchell, 5-11 JR, 13.6ppg, 47 3ptrs, 3.0apg; G Tack Minor, 5-11 SO, 10.9ppg, 5.4apg, 26 4ptrs; G/F Antonio Hudson, 6-6 SR, 13.4ppg, 3.3rpg, 44 3ptrs; C/F Glen Davis, 6-9 FR, 13.1ppg, 8.9rpg; F Brandon Bass, 6-8 SO, 17.0ppg, 8.4rpg.
Tiger Alternates: G Xavier Whipple, 6-2 SR, 2.4ppg, 1.5rpg; F Ross Neltner, 6-9 SO, 2.7ppg, 3.2rpg; F Darnell Lazare, 6-8 SO, 2.3ppg, 1.5rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.3ppg, 5.1apg; G Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 10.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 42 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 7.1ppg, 5.8rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 18.0ppg, 11.2rpg; F Ontario Harper, 6-5 SR, 7.7ppg, 5.0rpg.
Bulldog Backups: G Jamall Edmondson, 5-9 JR, 4.8ppg, 23 3ptrs; G Dietric Slater, 6-3 SO, 3.5ppg, 2.1rpg; F/C Walter Sharpe, 6-9 FR, 2.7ppg, 1.9rpg; G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 13.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 35 3ptrs.
Scoring: MSU 73.4, LSU 76.3
Scoring Defense: MSU 64.2, LSU 73.4
Rebounding: MSU 41.2, LSU 35.8
Rebounding Margin: MSU +9.3, LSU +4.2
Shooting: MSU 45.5%, LSU 46.3%
Shooting Defense: MSU 40.1%, LSU 46.2%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 32.9% (135/410), LSU 37.0% (143/386)
Three-Point Defense: MSU 31.2% (164/526), LSU 39.0% (149/382)
After winning the first meeting this season, the Tigers have a 98-88 lead. They also broke a four-game losing streak to State, though the Bulldogs can still claim to have dominated recent years with a 19-6 record since 1994. That year began a 11-game streak for MSU, into mid-1999. State holds a 54-33 lead in games played in Starkville, and LSU has won in The Hump just once (2001) since 1993. Rick Stansbury is 9-6 against LSU, while John Brady is 6-11 against State.
The Last Time
The #22-ranked Bulldogs dropped a third-straight SEC road game, falling 69-62 at LSU before 10,268 at the Maravich Assembly Center. The teams swapped leads, never more than five points, through the opening half before the Tigers took a 33-30 intermission lead on a trey by backup Ross Neltner. The Tigers were slowed by foul trouble to center Glen Davis, but Neltner's unexpected contributions helped the home team keep pace for a period. Then after consecutive buckets by Bulldog guard Gary Ervin put State ahead 34-33 the Tigers reeled off ten-straight points for a lead they would not lose. State cut the deficit to three points with seven minutes left, then to a single point twice. But Bass and guard Darrel Mitchell kept control down the stretch, making clutch jumpers—including timely treys—and the Dogs failed to cash in on some free throw chances. By contrast four Tiger free throws in the last minute locked up the homecourt victory. Bass scored 29 points and Mitchell 20 more, of the team's 69-point total, and the Tigers eked out a 35-33 edge on the boards. State got 15 points and 12 rebounds from Lawrence Roberts who was just 3-of-11 shooting against LSU double-teams. Rookie Walter Sharpe scored a dozen points off the bench and Ervin had ten more, but State was just 2-of-10 from the three-point line and had only six assists, to LSU's 18 scoring passes.
Did You Know?
*Of course you did, but we'll repeat it anyway. John Brady served as an assistant coach with Mississippi State under both Bob Boyd (from 1983-86) and Richard Williams (1987-90). And current Tiger assistant Butch Pierre was a guard for State from 1981-84.
*LSU is Mississippi State's oldest SEC rival, though just the second-most played series, dating back to 1909.
*This game matches the SEC's current assist leaders in LSU's Tack Minor (5.19) and State's Gary Ervin (5.12).
Bulldog Game Notes
*Mississippi State has successfully defended the home court this season with ten wins at Humphrey Coliseum, five of them SEC victories. Going back to last February the Bulldogs have an twelve-game homecourt streak going.
*State has never scored a perfect home season since Humphrey Coliseum opened in 1975-76.
*Senior guard Winsome Frazier resumed full practices on Monday, just five weeks after breaking a bone in his left foot January 8. He had surgery to secure the bone on January 11, got the cast off two weeks later, and was shooting on his own last week. Frazier dressed out for the first time since the injury Saturday evening and warmed up before the Vanderbilt game but with no possibility of playing. Though Stansbury has said otherwise, it is very possible Frazier could see action Wednesday night off the bench and be back in the lineup for one if not both of the upcoming road games.
*Though they have not hit the boards as well in their last five games as before Frazier's injury, Mississippi State is still on top of overall rebounding average at 41.2 boards per game, as well as in rebound margin. These Dogs have won the ‘battle of the boards' 20 of 24 games this year and nine of ten SEC games. MSU teams have won the last four league rebounding ‘titles' and are going for an unprecedented fifth this year.
*Senior forward Lawrence Roberts has made the mid-season cuts for both of the premier national player awards. A week after he was listed among the 30 finalists for Wooden Player of the Year, Roberts was also listed as a finalist for the Naismith POTY.
*Roberts currently leads the SEC in all-game rebound average, at 11.2 boards per game. Roberts is second in SEC scoring at 18.0 points, trailing only Florida's Anthony Roberson (18.2). Roberts is attempting to average a ‘double-double' for a second-straight year after notching 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds as a junior. He has tallied a double-dip in 51 of his career games, which leads all active NCAA players.
*Senior forward Shane Power has scored 34 points in his last three games, and in the process raised his scoring average to 10.7 points.
*Power is the current SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and this week was presented on the watch list for the Collegiate Basketball Award of Excellence presented by Creamland Dairies. This third-year award recognizes college seniors for athletic and academic achievements on the campus and in their community. Power and Kentucky forward Chuck Hayes are the only SEC players on the 25-man list. Lady Bulldog guard Tan White is up for the women's version of the award.
*Mississippi State has not lost consecutive games of any sort since March, 2003, when the Bulldogs fell in the finals of the SEC Tournament and the first round of the NCAA tourney. State hasn't lost back-to-back SEC games since March 1/5 of that year, though those setbacks were both on the road.
The Bulldogs go back on the road for a Saturday contest at Kentucky, while LSU is hosting Florida. February 19 is ‘East-West' showdown day for the SEC, with six inter-Divisional games scheduled.