*Another player absent from action to-date will be back in uniform Saturday as sophomore center Walter Sharpe regained eligibility Friday, having successfully completed the fall semester and raising his career grade average sufficiently. Sharpe, who played in 22 freshman games and averaged 2.4 points, has not been on-court since the SEC Tournament. But while working to regain eligibility he was able to practice all this fall, though not dress out.
*State also wraps up a home-friendly schedule Saturday, with the seventh campus game in three weeks. The Bulldogs will be at their home-away-from-home next Thursday, playing Jacksonville State at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. Then State heads off on a real trip, playing three games in the San Juan Shootout on December 19-21.
*The teams have played one common opponent. Southeastern Louisiana held off a Trojan comeback to win 71-68 at home, then the Lions pulled off an overtime victory three nights later in Starkville.
*Troy has only one win away from home, beating Quinnipiac in the first round of the Columbia (N.Y.) Classic on a neutral court. Playing the home team the Trojans lost 73-71 as a last-second shot missed.
*The Trojans have also had a week-break for tests, having last played Saturday in a 87-66 win over Stillman. But that was also Troy's first game in eight days, so the team has only played once in two weeks. The Dogs have been worried about rest; the Trojans might be concerned about rust.
ABOUT THE TROJANS: Through his 23-plus seasons in charge at Troy, former MSU assistant Don Maestri has gotten used to change. This 2005-06 season brings another one as the Trojans, who only became a Division I program in 1993, move to their third conference in Maestri's tenure. They are the newest member of the Sun Belt, having left the Atlantic Sun. Don't be fooled by last year's 12-18 overall record and 10-10 league mark; Maestri's teams won four conference (whichever one) in the preceding five-year span, so transitions aren't a big issue with this program. Their last title was in 2003-04 in the ASC with a 24-7 overall record. Maestri, a Mississippi Southern alum, got his coaching start on Jim Hatfield's staff in 1979-80 before jumping to Alabama for two years. He's found the right spot for almost a quarter-century now and has just scored his 400th career victory, and his teams have led the nation in average scoring four times. Of more concern to State is the way the Trojans thrive on long-range shooting. This is a program that six times has led the NCAA in treys-per-game, including 2004 and '05. Even with three starters gone, these Trojans know what to do from the arc with 66 made threes through five games (a 13.2 average) already. And it's not just one or two marksmen to defend, as every Troy players has the green-light for longballs. In their five games there've been four leading scorers. The top two gunners are the senior guards and only returning starters. Bobby Dixon runs the offense from the point and score his own points, having nailed 91 treys last season. He missed the last-chance shot in a 73-71 loss at Columbia. Meanwhile Jacob Hazouri is following up a 75-trey junior season with 20 through five games, and he's a 56% shooter overall. Troy isn't trying to develop new players, as this roster has three juco additions and two more redshirts who transferred in. The newest face in the lineup is Meridian native guard Boo Ramsey, who got his first start in game-five. He was inserted in place of junior forward Jarvis Acker, who still gets his minutes on the front line. Transfer center Cedric Jackson provides much-needed muscle and almost six boards a game. That's important because last season the Trojans were outrebounded all but three games; this year the new team is hitting the glass much more effectively. So far Maestri seems content to stick to a seven-man rotation, and while it gives away much in bulk any team that starts pumping up three-pointers from the locker room door is to be respected.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
TROY: G Jacob Hazouri, SR, 6-3 185, 16.6ppg, 5.0rpg, 20 3ptrs; G Bobby Dixon, SR, 5-10 160, 16.0ppg, 15 3ptrs; C/F Jarvis Acker, JR, 6-7 210, 5.2ppg, 5.2rpg; F Cedric Jackson, JR, 6-8 235, 12.2ppg, 5.8rpg; G/F Sammy Sharp, JR, 6-7 205, 9.6ppg, 6.0rpg.
Top Reserves: G Boo Ramsey, JR, 6-2 195, 12.0ppg, 17 3ptrs; F Daryl Davis, 6-7 180, 6.8ppg, 2.4rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: G Jamall Edmondson, SR 5-9 190, 14.9ppg, 22 asts, 15 3ptrs; G Reggie Delk, FR, 6-4 170, 8.5ppg, 13 3ptrs; C Wesley Morgan, SR, 7-2 240, 5.9ppg, 9.9rpg; F Charles Rhodes, SO 6-8 240, 8.2ppg, 4.5rpg; F Jamont Gordon, FR, 6-4 225, 13.4ppg, 6.1rpg, 83ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Richard Delk, FR, 6-4 170, no stats; F Piotr Stelmach, JR, 6-9 240, 6.2ppg, 5.8rpg; C Vernon Goodridge FR 6-9 220 1.3ppg, 1.5rpg; G Michael Boler, SR, 6-5 190, 1.1ppg, 1.7rpg; F/C Walter Sharpe, SO, 6-9 235, 2.4ppg, 1.9rpg (freshman year stats).
BY THE NUMBERS:
Average Points: MSU 65.0, Troy 86.2
Scoring Margin: MSU +6.4, Troy +13.2
Field Goal %: MSU 41.7%, Troy 44.9%
Field Goal Defense: MSU 34.8%, Troy 40.1%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 32.6% (43-132), Troy 41.0 (66-161)
Rebounding Average: MSU 41.3, Troy 40.2
Rebounds Margin: MSU +2.9, Troy +2.4
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 64.9%, Troy 74.1%
Average Turnovers: MSU 18.9, Troy 14.6
THE SERIES: The schools from neighboring states have met just six times since 1960, all of the games played in Starkville, and the Bulldogs have won every contest. The last was on December 5, 1995, when host State set the school scoring record in a 123-73 blowout of the Trojans. The 50-point margin of victory was only the 14th-most in program history, though.
DID YOU KNOW: That 1995 romp was hardly a fluke, as only ten days earlier Coach Richard Williams' team had hung 121 points on Southeastern Louisiana. And the 1995-96 team did go on to win a few more games…all the way to the Final Four.
*Troy has three wins in 20 tries against SEC teams, including beating Arkansas in 2004 in Fayetteville.
BULLDOG NOTES: Mississippi State has apparently recovered completely from a painful 1-of-16 outside shooting night in the loss to Southeastern Louisiana, by bombing away in two ensuing victories. The Bulldogs hit 11 of 21 trey-tries against New Orleans, and followed it up with a 14-of-28 afternoon at the arc in beating Santa Clara in overtime. Those 14 threes tied the program record achieved in 1996, 2000, and 2004. Before the last two hot-shot nights, the Bulldogs ranked last in the SEC in three-point accuracy and average alike.
*State has also bounced back from early-season accuracy issues to make 50% of all shots from the floor in the last two wins. Against SELa the Dogs had their worst shooting night in nine years.
*Rick Stansbury teams are 84-21 in non-conference play, both regular- and post-season. They are also 45-8 in games played in December since 1998, 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 games of his career, having scored 26 points and hit six three-point baskets against New Orleans and 19 points with four more treys against Santa Clara. He has 15 of his teams' 43 treys through seven games. The senior is the only active Bulldog with over 200 career points (he has 256).
*Three Dogs played 40 or more minutes against Santa Clara, all guards. Rookies Jamont Gordon 42, Reggie Delk 41, and Edmondson 40.
*State has split two overtime games this season, after not going to extra minutes all of 2004-05. Stansbury teams are 7-7 in overtimes.
*The Bulldogs have only gotten through one game, against Santa Clara, with more assists than turnovers.