*The Bulldogs also wrap up a hectic early-season schedule Saturday, playing their seventh game in 14 days. State will not play again until next Saturday, with the coming week filled by fall semester exams.
*Mississippi State was able to dress nine players Wednesday night. Going into the weekend Coach Rick Stansbury hoped to have junior forward Piotr Stelmach back after missing two games with an ankle injury. But junior guard Dietric Slater (ankle) and freshman guard Richard Delk (foot ‘hot spot') were both doubtful for Saturday. Sophomore forward Walter Sharpe hopes to regain eligibility in next week's final exams and be able to play on December 10.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS: Considering how strongly last season started, with an upset win over eventual national champs North Carolina, the final record of 15-16 and 7-7 league mark had to be a letdown for Santa Clara. And with some 60% of the team's offense gone, along with one of the best backcourts in the West Coast Conference, expectations should be modest for this year's Bronco team, right? Wrong. 13-year Coach Dick Davey (220-165) might have lost a lot of seniors but he also has a maturing bunch of underclassmen ready to make their own marks, and some project Santa Clara behind only Gonzaga in the WCC race. It's a versatile-looking lineup with guards strong enough to into the paint and athletic big men who can step out and score. These Broncos are already comfortable playing in tight contests, too, having rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Pacific 63-60 and scoring a buzzer-beating (after review) layup to knock off rival San Jose State 47-46. Not surprisingly, the Bronco busting that game-winning goal was senior forward Travis Niesen who got his fifth career double-double in the process. Niesen, a tough matchup at 6-7, can make outside shots but prefers to work closer in. He's gone from averaging 15.1 points last year to 22.5 through four games and is closing in on 1,000 career points. He also draws a lot of fouls, not that any Bronco is a good guy to foul judging by the free throw shooting. 6-7 Mitch Henke has gone from frosh backup to soph starter and complements Niesen at each end of the court. The starting backcourt isn't entirely new, as soph Brody Angley got plenty of action last season with 87 assists. He's raised his scoring from 5.3 to 9.0 this early-season and had a career-best 11 rebounds last week. Junior Brandon Rohe is healthy after missing all last season with a back injury and can also start, while freshman Calvin Johnson has stepped in at two-guard and popped nine treys on a team that so far hasn't had to rely on longballs. SC has taken just 68 attempts at the arc, by contrast opponents have pumped up 105 three-balls but only made 32. Though 14 of those were by UC-Irvine in the lone loss. The Broncos can play small or go with a real big body in the low post, such as junior Sean Dennison who missed the first dozen games last year with a stress fracture before starting the last 15. And talking of ‘big' bodies, 320-pound freshman John Bryant has certainly asserted himself off the bench by averaging seven boards. This whole team is good on the glass for that matter. The early-season weak points are unproven outside shooting, and a tendency for turnovers all around. Not that the Bulldogs can take much comfort there, of course.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
SANTA CLARA: G Calvin Johnson, FR, 6-4 200, 9.3ppg, 9 3ptrs; G Brody Angley, SO, 5-11 195, 9.0ppg, 4.8rpg; C Sean Denison, JR, 6-11 230, 5.3ppg, 6.3rpg; F Travis Niesen, SR, 6-7 220, 22.5ppg, 7.0rpg; F Mitch Henke, SO, 6-7 205, 9.3ppg, 7.0rpg.
Top Reserves: G Brandon Rohe, JR, 6-4 195, 6.3ppg, 1.5rpg; C John Bryant, FR, 6-11 320, 3.5ppg, 7.0rpg;.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: G Jamall Edmondson, SR 5-9 190, 14.2ppg, 14 asts, 11 3ptrs; G Reggie Delk, FR, 6-4 170, 7.0ppg, 8 3ptrs; C Wesley Morgan, SR, 7-2 240, 5.8ppg, 9.8rpg; F Charles Rhodes, SO 6-8 240, 7.5ppg, 4.5rpg; F Jamont Gordon, FR, 6-4 225, 12.3ppg, 5.7rpg.
Top Reserves: F Jerrell Houston, rFR, 6-8 210, 2.0ppg, 3.0rpg; C Vernon Goodridge FR 6-9 220 1.5ppg, 1.4rpg; G/F Michael Boler SR 6-5 190, 0.8ppg, 1.2rpg; F Bernard Rimmer FR, 6-8 195, 0.4ppg, 1.8rpg.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Average Points: MSU 62.2, SC 69.2ppg.
Points Allowed: MSU 56.8, SC 59.2ppg
Field Goal %: MSU 39.8%, SC 40.9%
Field Goal Defense: MSU 34.4%, SC 34.7%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 27.9% (29-104), SC 33.8% (23-68)
Rebounding Average: MSU 41.2rpg, SC 41.8rpg
Rebounds Allowed: MSU 38.7rpg, SC 37.0rpg
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 65.2%, SC 76.9%
Average Turnovers: MSU 19.6, SC 15.3
THE SERIES: There have been only two meetings of the Bulldogs and Broncos, both from from Starkville and both MSU wins. In 1995 State knocked off Santa Clara 75-67 in the first round of the Boise Regional. In 2003 the Bulldogs needed a three-pointer from Winsome Frazier to force the game into overtime where State took control in a 66-61 win.
DID YOU KNOW: Santa Clara's home gym, the Leavey Center, seats 4,500 but in the two November home games the attendance totals were 1,200 and 1,600.
*The basketball student support group for the Broncos, the Ruff Riders, claimed a membership of 3,000 last season.
BULLDOG NOTES: Mississippi State recovered from a 1-of-16 night at the three-point arc against Southeastern Louisiana to hit 11 of 21 trey-tries in the win over New Orleans. The Bulldogs had made just 18 treys in the preceding five games and ranked last in the SEC in long-range shooting.
*The Bulldogs also bounced back from their worst shooting game in nine seasons (24.2% at Old Dominion in December 1996) to shoot 48.9% Wednesday night, their best effort of the young year.
*Rick Stansbury teams are 83-21 in non-conference play, both regular- and post-season. They are also 44-8 in games played in December, with only one loss in the month (on a neutral court to Arizona last season) in the past three seasons.
*Guard Jamall Edmondson is coming off the best offensive game of his career, having scored 26 points and hit six three-point baskets against New Orleans. He has 11 of his teams' 29 treys through six games. The senior is the only active Bulldog with over 200 career points (he has 237). Next-closest is the injured Dietric Slater with 176.
*Senior center Wesley Morgan had a two-game run of ‘double-doubles' ended Wednesday when he went scoreless in 14 minutes. He did have seven rebounds, and is averaging 9.8 this year.