As a team, Mississippi State begins the week topping the Southeastern Conference in field-goal percentage (48.9%) and rebounding margin (+6.8 rpg), while ranking second in the league in assists (16.6 apg) behind Florida. In Saturday's decisive win over Auburn, the Bulldogs outrebounded the Tigers by a commanding 48-25 margin for their largest rebounding margin in a league encounter during the Stansbury era of MSU hoops. Prior to the Auburn contest this past weekend, State had been outrebounded during each of its previous four outings (LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Florida).
Coming off his fifth double-double performance of the season with 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against Auburn, sophomore all-SEC candidate Mario Austin leads the Bulldogs in scoring (15.5 ppg; 11th in the SEC) and rebounding (7.7 rpg; 5th), as well as ranking third in the league in field-goal percentage (56.2%). Having recently moved up to the No. 22 spot on the school's all-time scoring chart with 1,083 career points, senior swingman Marckell Patterson is MSU's second-leading scorer (13.3 ppg; 18th in SEC) and No. 3 rebounder (4.6 rpg) on the season. Rounding out the team's double-figure scorers, sophomore guard Timmy Bowers has raised his season's scoring average to nearly 11 points per game after averaging 19.0 points and shooting 58 percent (21-36 FGs & 11-18 treys) from the field over his last three outings, including a career-high 24 points versus Alabama.
Having dropped five of their last six decisions, including a current three-game losing streak, the Vanderbilt Commodores are 14-11 overall and 4-8 in league play after falling at home to South Carolina, 66-43, this past Saturday. Guided by third-year head coach Kevin Stallings, VU is led by sophomore forward Matt Freije, who tops the club in scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (5.0 rpg).
After searching for their second SEC road win of the year and the team's first win in Nashville since 1991-92, the Bulldogs will return home to play host to the Mississippi Rebels in a key Western Division clash Saturday evening. Tip-off at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum is set for 5 p.m., and the game will be televised by FOX Sports Net South as part of the network's SEC-TV regional package.