*The Rebels are 13-13 and 4-9 SEC, a game out of the West cellar with Auburn at 3-10. Mississippi took the midweek-off with an open date, their second open date of February. With three regular-season games and the SEC Tournament left on the schedule, the Rebs have to pick up at least a couple of wins—or go on a tear in Atlanta--to avoid a third-straight losing season.
*With a win, Mississippi State will have recorded a fourth-straight 20-victory season for the first time in school history. Bulldog teams have won 27, 21, and 26 games the preceeding three years, the most successful such stretch ever for MSU.
About the Rebels
Yes, Mississippi is quite likely to end this campaign with another losing record, following the 14-15 and 13-15 results of the previous seasons. Yet there is actually reason to see 2004-05 as, if not a success, at least a better year than many had anticipated. After all there were some critics forecasting a winless league record after UM lost their two star-quality players. Instead Rod Barnes' club of (by league media standards) no-names has turned in competitive performances, won some SEC games and made everyone else work for wins over a Reb team that refuses to mail in efforts. This team can play hard all 40 minutes because Barnes shuttles guys in at almost every deadball; no Reb is averaging more than 27 minutes in SEC play, yet eight get almost all the action. The statistics are accordingly even, too, though that is not necessarily a good thing. Only two Rebels are averaging in double-digits, both in the frontcourt. Undersized center Patrick Eddie and forward Londrick Nolen battle as best they can in the paint and come away with well-matched scoring and rebounding figures; though Nolen does have an outside touch to respect with 25 treys. The backcourt has the green light to fire away and they do, as UM has put up 499 longballs already. Lanky swingman Kendrick Fox does the most perimeter damage with 44 threes, though this usually keeps him from helping out of the boards where Mississippi is at a serious disadvantage and getting out-boarded by over five rebounds per SEC game. Though blocked shots can be misleading, UM has three attempts swatted for every block they make in league play. Barnes' lineups have been fairly consistent of late, but three bench guys know they will be in shortly. Soph guard Todd Abernathy is the primary contributor, coming in to shoot, score, and pass. Opponents have to stay alert for new UM lineups, though as the record shows most SEC foes have been able to adapt. Mississippi's problem is that they just don't have the size to bang or speed to hang with the better league lineups over a full 40 minutes…usually. But with a week's rest to the good, a still injury-crimped opponent, and the added motivation of a rivalry game, nobody coming to The Hump this Saturday expects anything less than an all-out effort from the visitors.
Tentative Starting Lineups
Mississippi: G Justin Johnson, 6-0 SR, 6.2ppg, 1.5rpg, 33 3ptrs; G Cavadas Nunnery, 5-9 SR, 3.2ppg, 3.0apg; F/G Kendrick Fox, 6-7 SR, 7.2ppg, 2.6rpg, 44 3ptrs; C Patrick Eddie, 6-7 SR, 11.4ppg, 4.2rpg; F Londrick Nolen, 6-6 JR, 11.3ppg, 4.8rpg, 25 3ptrs.
Rebel Alternates: G Todd Abernathy, 6-1 SO, 7.9ppg, 2.7apg, 25 3ptrs; F Brandon Patterson, 6-6 FR, 5.5ppg, 2.3rpg, 33 3ptrs; F Marvin Moore, 6-6 SR, 5.0ppg, 2.9rpg.
Mississippi State: G Gary Ervin, 5-11 SO, 8.2ppg, 5.0apg; G Shane Power, 6-5 SR, 11.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 51 3pts; C Marcus Campbell, 7-0 SR, 6.7ppg, 5.6rpg; F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9 SR, 17.4ppg, 11.0rpg; F Ontario Harper, 6-5 SR, 8.0ppg, 4.9rpg.
Bulldog Backups: G Winsome Frazier, 6-4 SR, 12.9ppg, 3.5rpg, 42 3ptrs; G Jamall Edmondson, 5-9 JR, 4.7ppg, 24 3ptrs; G Dietric Slater, 6-3 SO, 3.3ppg, 2.2rpg; F/C Walter Sharpe, 6-9 FR, 2.6ppg, 2.1rpg; F Charles Rhodes, 6-9 FR, 3.1ppg, 1.8rpg.
Scoring: MSU 73.6, UM 64.7
Scoring Defense: MSU 65.8, UM 63.9
Rebounding: MSU 41.3, UM 29.7
Rebounding Margin: MSU +9.3, UM –0.8
Shooting: MSU 45.4%, UM 45.0%
Shooting Defense: MSU 40.8%, UM 46.3%
Three-Point Shooting: MSU 33.5% (154/460), UM 35.9% (179/499)
Three-Point Defense: MSU 30.5% (179/587), UM 37.6% (149/396)
With their January win in Oxford the Bulldogs stretched their series lead to 129-101, and their ongoing winning streak in the rivalry to seven games. Mississippi has not taken a game from State since January 2002, which was also the last time UM scored consecutive victories. The Bulldogs own a 84-23 lead in games played in Starkville, where they have not lost to the rivals since 1998. Both head coaches were promoted from assistants to the top job in the same year, and Rick Stansbury has dominated the matchup by a 11-3 score including one win in the SEC Tournament in 2003.
The Last Time: MSU 87, UM 76
#18-ranked Mississippi State was shooting for a third-straight victory in Oxford, something that had not happened in this feud since the mid-1950s, and the Bulldogs got it…but at a high price. Just about seven minutes into the action MSU guard Winsome Frazier jumped to block a shot, came down wrong and broke a bone in his left foot. He would miss the rest of this game and the next eight contests. At the time the Bulldogs were looking shaky already, trailing 22-10. But instead of collapsing State reeled off ten unanswered points and put together a 21-4 stretch that produced a 44-37 halftime lead. The home team had a surge of their own midway of the last half and pulled within 52-49 before the Dogs caught their collective breath and bolted back in front 60-49. State's longest lead was 12 at 65-53, and by making free throws down the stretch the Dogs kept control. Lawrence Roberts led all scorers with 23 points, 11 of them from the free throw line, while Gary Ervin scored 15 points and Ontario Harper came off the bench for a dozen more. Four Rebs got in double-digits led by Tommie Eddie's 17 points. State left Smith Coliseum 14-2, 2-0 SEC, while the home team was 9-6, 0-2. The 87 points were the most a MSU team had scored against UM since 1995. The win also ran MSU's streak of road success to 16 games, but with Frazier's injury the string was about to be snapped four days later at Tennessee.
Did You Know?
*This is the 30th time the teams have met in Humphrey Coliseum, where the Bulldogs own a 23-6 lead.
*Rick Stansbury's 11 wins against Mississippi trail only E.C. Hayes (24 wins from 1914-24), Babe McCarthy (16, 1956-65), and Richard Williams (13, 1987-98).
*Hayes' teams won the first nine meetings of the in-state rivals, which still stands as the longest streak in the series. Mississippi's longest streak was eight-straight wins in 1980-83, meaning the great Jeff Malone never beat a Rebel team.
*The longest game ever for a Bulldog squad was the four-overtime victory over the Rebels in The Hump in 1990. State won that one 104-102, with guard Doug Hartsfield—who had missed all his three-point tries through regulation and three OTs—sticking the decisive trey.
*Of the projected ten starters in this game, only one Bulldog—F Ontario Harper—and two Rebels are natives of Mississippi. In fact there are only two Rebels and five Bulldogs on the respective rosters that are in-state prep products.
Bulldog Game Notes
*With the team's victory at Georgia, seniors Winsome Frazier and Marcus Campbell officially became the ‘winningest' Bulldogs ever with 93 career victories (regardless of actual participation in the games). They surpassed the 92 wins belonging to 2004 senior Timmy Bowers.
*That win in Athens was State's first road victory since the Dogs won at Oxford on January 8.
*State has out-rebounded the opposition 23 times in 27 games this season, and maintain their SEC-leads in both total rebound average (41.3) and rebounding margin (+9.3). MSU teams have won the last four league rebounding ‘titles' and are going for an unprecedented fifth this year.
*Senior Lawrence Roberts bounced back from a career-worst night at Kentucky with a double-double effort at Georgia, the 53rd of his four college seasons—still ranking first among all active NCAA players. Roberts, hampered by a sore right thigh and a cold, scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds at Athens. With the regular season winding down Roberts should repeat as the SEC rebounding champion, with a 11.0 board average in his 25 games. His chances for leading the league in scoring are fading though as at 17.4 points he has slipped to third in the current SEC chase. Still Roberts ought to notch another season double-double as he did last season which keeps him a strong candidate for league Player of the Year…the award he won as a junior.
*In his three games against the Rebels, Roberts has put together scoring/rebounding efforts of: 11/8 and 24/9 last season, and 23/7 this year.
*Senior forward Shane Power is making a strong late-season bid for all-conference honors as well. He has scored 101 points in his last six SEC games, a 16.8 average, and raised his season rate to 11.3 Power has also scored a dozen three-point goals in the last four contests giving him 51 for the year and 89 for his two-year MSU career. His accuracy of almost 45% in this span is the best in Bulldog history. Marcus Bullard's 40.7% at the arc (one season, 1995-96) is second.
*Senior guard Winsome Frazier, who missed eight complete games after a January 8 broken foot, beat all forecasts for his return and got back on the court last week. He scored 11 points against both LSU and Kentucky, averaging 25 minutes off the bench. He has scored double-digit points in 14 of the 17 complete games he has participated in. He now has 143 career treys, sixth-most in MSU history.
*Frazier is also getting up to full-defensive-speed also with four steals at Georgia. He now has 139 career thefts and is tied for seventh with Terry Lewis (1980-83) on the MSU chart.
*Senior Marcus Campbell has 82 career blocked shots, rnaking seventh and seven swats back of Derrick Zimmerman (2000-03).
Mississippi State is back on the SEC road for a Tuesday night contest at Arkansas. The Rebels are hosting LSU.