MSU Hosts George Mason Friday at 7 p.m.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State Bulldogs (9-3) return from their Christmas holiday break to play host to George Mason University (7-3) Friday night in their non-conference, regular-season finale. Tip-off for the first-ever MSU-GMU hardwood encounter is set for 7 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum on the State campus.

Returning to action after eight days away from competition, coach Rick Stansbury's 9-3 Bulldogs most recently claimed third-place team honors at last week's (Dec. 19-21) San Juan Shootout played in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Upon claiming a 78-67 first-round tourney win over Liberty and dropping an 83-72 second-round decision to Akron, MSU rallied from a nine-point deficit with less than three minutes remaining to post a come-from-behind 76-75 victory over Holy Cross in the tournament's third-place contest on Jamall Edmondson's game-winning 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds remaining.

With a win over George Mason, the Bulldogs would reach double figures in wins prior to the start of conference play for the fifth consecutive year and for the sixth time in the eight seasons that Stansbury has been at the State helm. MSU is 83-16 in regular-season contests against non-conference opponents, including a 45-4 home mark, during the Stansbury era.

Having won six of their last seven decisions dating back to Nov. 30, the Bulldogs continue to top the SEC in field-goal percentage defense (37.5%), while ranking second in the league in three-point field goal percentage defense (31.3%), rebounding (41.3 rpg) and rebounding margin (+6.0 rpg). On the other side of the court, a now-healthy MSU ballclub maintains its steady offensive improvement as a team. After shooting better than 45 percent from the field in a game only once through the team's first five outings of the season, State has connected on a collective 51.3 percent of its field-goal attempts over the last seven contests. In addition, the Bulldogs have averaged 83.3 points over their last six games after managing but 62.2 points per contest through their first half-dozen outings of the season.

Individually, Edmondson, the club's senior playmaker and co-captain, leads a quartet of double-digit State scorers on the year at 14.5 points per contest to rank 11th in the SEC. Named to the all-tournament team of last week's San Juan Shootout, Edmondson averaged 12.7 points, along with shooting 50 percent from the field (11-of-22 FGs) and 85 percent from the line (11-of-13 FTs), during his three outings in Puerto Rico. Edmondson was joined on last week's all-tourney team by rookie swingman Jamont Gordon, who collected SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the second time this month after averaging a team-leading 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per outing in San Juan. Averaging 13.4 points (13th in SEC), 5.8 rebounds (17th in SEC), 3.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game for the season, Gordon presently leads all rookie scorers in the league in addition to ranking second in assists (behind Auburn's Quantez Robertson) and fourth in rebounding among SEC freshmen.

Picked in the preseason to finish third in the Colonial Athletic Association race behind Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth, the Patriots of George Mason University bring a 7-3 overall record and 1-1 CAA mark to Starkville after claiming a 71-38 home win over Holy Cross this past Tuesday in Fairfax, Va. Owners of a current three-game winning streak, the Patriots have also won six of their last seven decisions. Guided by ninth-year head coach Jim Larranaga, GMU is paced by the senior trio of Lamar Butler, Tony Skinn and Jai Lewis. Averaging 15.7 points per game and shooting 46 percent from three-point range on the year, Butler, a preseason second-team all-league backcourt performer, most recently became GMU's career leader in 3-pointers made (252) during Tuesday's home win over Holy Cross. Fellow veteran guard Skinn is averaging 14.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, while Lewis, also a preseason second-team all-conference selection, averages 13.8 points on 60 percent field-goal shooting and leads the team in rebounding (8.6 rpg) on the year.

The Bulldogs will next commence Southeastern Conference competition by playing host to the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday, Jan. 7. Slated to tip off at 7 p.m. at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum, next Saturday's Mississippi State-Arkansas contest will be televised regionally by FSN South/Sunshine Network.

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