Coach Rick Stansbury's new-look Bulldogs are now 3-0 on the young season, including season-opening home victories over Chattanooga (64-48) and Arkansas State (68-63) last week. On the year as a team, MSU is currently leading the SEC in scoring defense (49.7 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (29.5%) and three-point percentage defense (18.8%). The Bulldogs have struggled somewhat offensively to date, averaging just 61.7 points per outing on 39.9 percent field-goal shooting and 25.9 percent three-point accuracy. However, State is ranked second in the league (behind Vanderbilt) in free-throw shooting as a team at 73.2 percent accuracy from the line.
Individually thus far for MSU, junior swingman Dietric Slater leads a trio of double-figure State scorers on the year at 13.0 points per game, including team-high efforts of 13 points at Charlotte and 20 points in the team's season-opening win over Chattanooga. Slater is also shooting a team-best 68.0 percent (17-of-25 FGs) from the field through his first three outings. Freshman swingman Jamont Gordon and senior guard Jamall Edmondson are also scoring in twin digits on the season at 11.3 and 10.7 points per contest, respectively. Senior center Wesley Morgan and junior forward Piotr Stelmach co-lead the State squad in rebounding at 6.7 boards per game. Sophomore forward Charles Rhodes is averaging a productive 9.0 points and 6.3 rebounds coming off the Bulldog bench.
In sharp contrast to Mississippi State losing its top six scorers and top six rebounders from last year's veteran ballclub, a senior-laden Northwestern State squad returns more than 90 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last season's 21-12 team that shared the 2004-05 Southland Conference regular-season championship with Southeastern Louisiana. NSU returns more rebounding production than any other team in the country and only Bradley has more scoring firepower back, among the 326 NCAA Division I teams, than do the Demons.
Headquartered in Natchitoches, La., and picked in the preseason to claim this year's SLC title, coach Mike McConathy's NSU Demons are 1-1 on the new campaign. Most recently, Northwestern State led the Missouri Tigers on the road for the first 35 minutes before dropping an 81-72 decision to Mizzou last Sunday in Columbia, Mo. The Demons opened the season by claiming a 77-74 home victory over NCAA Division III foe East Texas Baptist on Nov. 18.
A preseason second-team all-SLC pick, senior forward Clifton Lee leads NSU in both scoring (17.5 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg), while junior guard Luke Rogers and senior center Byron Allen are both averaging 10.5 points per contest thus far on the year.
Playing their next three games - all against Louisiana-based schools - over a five-day span, the Bulldogs will welcome their second straight Southland Conference foe when Southeastern Louisiana visits the State campus for a Monday night contest. MSU will then play host to New Orleans on Wednesday before entertaining Santa Clara of the West Coast Conference next Saturday (Dec. 3) in Starkville.
Mississippi State enters its upcoming five-game homestand having prevailed in 18 consecutive non-conference home games dating back to the 2002-03 campaign.