*Stansbury made his head-coaching debut in Jackson, on November 17, 1998 when State defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 105-53. Since then his teams have compiled an 85-21 record in all non-conference games; and a 76-15 record in games played in November-December. That is nearly half of Stansbury's 155 total wins at State.
*According to the annual records since 1908, Mississippi State teams are 16-6 in games played in the city of Jackson. Moving to a more modern timeframe, State has a 9-5 record in the Mississippi Coliseum, but since 1978 is 6-1 with the lone defeat coming in December 1980 to Mississippi Southern. Bulldogs teams have won in their last five trips to their ‘home away from home.'
*Thursday's game also begins an extended road trip for the Bulldogs, as they depart from Jackson the following morning for Puerto Rico and the San Juan Shootout. The eight-team tournament will be played December 19-21 and MSU is guaranteed three games; two in a half-bracket, then either a championship matchup with the other bracket winner or a consolation contest.
*Both these teams have not yet played a common foe in a real game, but each did host West Georgia in exhibition play. The Gamecocks won 72-70, while State won 80-66. And JSU opened their schedule with a 67-46 loss at Vanderbilt.
ABOUT THE GAMECOCKS: The bad: Jacksonville State is coming off a 7-22 season, that saw a 2-12 record and 11th-place finish in the Ohio Valley Conference. The good: just about everybody is back, including all five starters and three more lettermen. If these guys weren't permanently scarred by the experience, Coach Mike LaPlante can think about better things in his sixth season at JSU. His previous team tied for 4th in the OVC, in only their second year in the league, so the Gamecocks know something about success. And they're already off to a 2-0 start in OVC play. JSU also snapped a 20-game losing streak in road play by eking out a 62-61 win at Samford, and followed that up with a 93-84 success at Tennessee-Martin last Saturday. The Gamecocks still have some inherent flaws, such as overall roster size that shows in a negative rebounding ratio. Yet the work on the glass is actually improved somewhat, aided by the addition of Itawamba Comm. College product and Utica native Courtney Bradley. The 6-5 forward has already been twice named OVC newcomer-of-the-week. He and soph forward Dorien Brown make up what passes for a front-line, and there's not a lot of bulk available on the bench. But JSU is a backcourt-oriented team anyway with a trio of senior guards, featuring Starkville native B.J. Spencer as the primary shooting/scoring threat. Spencer is coming off a 22-point game at UTM. Walker Russell, a Michigan prep product, runs the show and last season ranked 4th in the country in assists at 7.1 per game. He's averaging 5.7 so far this senior season, while popping a few treys of his own. Freshman DeAndrea Bray looks like the point guard of the future; for now he comes off the bench. There's been pretty good balance on offense so far, such as five double-digit scorers in the last game.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
JAX.STATE: G B.J. Spencer, SR, 6-4 190, 15.0ppg, 15 3ptrs; G Russell Walker, SR, 6-0, 170, 11.8ppg, 9 3ptrs, 34 asts; G Anthony Wilson, SR, 6-3 190, 7.3ppg, 3.3rpg; F Dorien Brown, SO, 6-8, 225, 10.5ppg, 4.0rpg; F Courtney Bradley, JR, 6-5 215, 13.0ppg, 7.8rpg.
Top Reserves: F Harold Crow, JR, 6-7 200, 5.8ppg, 2.2rpg; G Nick Smith, JR, 6-3 185, 3.2ppg, 1.2rpg; G DeAndrea Bray, FR, 5-6 160, 0.7ppg, 1.2rpg, 17 asts.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: G Jamall Edmondson, SR 5-9 190, 15.1ppg, 24 asts, 19 3ptrs; G Reggie Delk, FR, 6-4 170, 8.0ppg, 2.9rpg, 13 3ptrs; C Wesley Morgan, SR, 7-2 240, 5.5ppg, 9.3rpg; F Charles Rhodes, SO 6-8 240, 8.7ppg, 5.1rpg; F Jamont Gordon, FR, 6-4 225, 13.9ppg, 6.5rpg, 9 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Richard Delk, FR, 6-4 170, 3.0ppg, 1.0rpg; G Dietric Slater, JR, 6-3 200, 11.8ppg, 3.8rpg; F Piotr Stelmach, JR, 6-9 240, 5.8ppg, 5.5rpg; F/C Walter Sharpe, SO, 6-9 235, 10.0ppg, 8.0rpg.
BY THE NUMBERS:
Average Points: MSU 67.9ppg, JSU 73.7ppg
Scoring Margin: MSU + 7.0, JSU +2.7
Field Goal %: MSU 42.5%, JSU 47.4%
Field Goal Defense: MSU 35.2%, JSU 48.5%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 30.3% (50/165), JSU 35.1% (34/97)
Rebounding Average: MSU 43.4, JSU 30.7
Rebounds Margin: MSU +5.5, JSU –0.7
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 63.7%, JSU 72.5%
Average Turnovers: MSU 18.6, JSU 15.0
THE SERIES: The programs have met just three times, all since 1999, and Mississippi State is perfect against the Gamecocks so far with wins on campus (73-54 in 1999), at Jacksonville (73-61 in 2000) and 95-53 last year in Jackson.
DID YOU KNOW: In the MSU victory last December, 15 Bulldogs got into the game. The only one who didn't score at least one basket was guard Jamall Edmondson, who took just two shots in his 12 minutes and missed both. Center Lawrence Roberts dominated play with 22 points and 20 rebounds in his 24 minutes, and no Dog played more than 26 minutes.
*Last year's sell-out attendance was 7,597.
*Jacksonville State will be part of ESPN's ‘bracket buster' broadcast day on February 18, with an opponent to be named to visit JSU.
BULLDOG NOTES: Due to early-season injuries and ineligibility State has used three starting lineups through eight games. Guard Jamall Edmondson, G/F Jamont Gordon, and C Wesley Morgan have started all eight. In the last game the lineup had Edmondson and Reginald Delk at guards, Morgan in center, Gordon and Charles Rhodes at forwards. The return of C/F Walter Sharpe and PG Richard Delk might spur more changes in tipoff teams, though over the years Stansbury has not worried about a ‘set' starting group until SEC season.
*After not having to work overtime all last season, the Bulldogs have gone into extra minutes three times in just the past five games and won twice. In his eight seasons Stansbury teams are now 8-7 in OT.
*Gordon missed by one assist in the Troy game becoming only the second Bulldog to record a triple-double, when he tallied 17 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in 38 minutes. He would have joined Lawrence Roberts, who did the trick last season, as Dogs with that unique achievement.
*Backcourt players have led or co-led State's scoring every game this season. Gordon has set the pace four times, Edmondson three (they tied against Troy) and Dietric Slater twice.
*State has taken seven charges this season; Gordon accounts for five of these.
*Of the 20 dunks by Bulldogs to-date, Rhodes has nine.
*Mississippi State had only 18 three-point baskets through the first five games, and was shooting under 22% from the arc. Through the last three contests the Bulldogs are 32-of-82, which is 39.0%, and the 14 made-treys against Santa Clara were a program record. But the so-far average of over 20 treys-attempted per game is a bit more than Stansbury likes his team taking. And that is with opponents putting up over 27 longballs per-night against State's defense.
*The lineup is all-new for this season, but one trend from recent Bulldog teams is continuing. State continues to hit the boards hard, averaging 43.4 rebounds. State has led the league in rebound average for the past five years, a SEC record.
*State's defense has been up-to-standard this year also; only one foe (Northwestern State, 45%) has shot better than 38% against the Dogs this year, and MSU currently leads the SEC in both scoring and shooting defense. *A downside of this new lineup is few ‘career' stats worth recognizing. Emondson, coming off the best three-game stretch of his short State tenure, is the only Dog over 200 points. He has 273 in 40 career games. Senior Morgan is the lone player with more than 100 rebounds (146), though junior Slater is one-shy at 99 boards.
*So far the Bulldogs have finished one game, against Santa Clara, with more assists than turnovers.