News from MSU Media Relations--November 11

The lastest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Coach Rick Stansbury's Mississippi State Bulldogs tip off their 95th season of collegiate basketball competition by playing host to Nicholls State University Saturday afternoon on the MSU campus. Tip-off for State's 2006-07 season opener is set for 2 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.

A limited number of upper level, reserved seat tickets will be available to the general public for $10 each through the Bryan Athletic Administration ticket office or at the Humphrey Coliseum box office two hours before tipoff on game day. Saturday's MSU-Nicholls contest will also be broadcast via live video streaming free of charge through Mississippi State's premium multimedia streaming service, Maroon to the Max.

With 10 of their 13 available rostered players at season's start classified as either freshmen or sophomores, the Bulldogs enter Saturday's opener having prevailed in last week's exhibition contests over NAIA members Auburn University Montgomery (88-61) and Oklahoma City (71-64). In the pair of preseason triumphs, MSU collectively held the opposition to only 32-percent field-goal shooting (18% treys), while blocking 18 shots and maintaining a 114-58 rebounding advantage.

Individually during exhibition play, preseason all-SEC standouts and team co-captains Charles Rhodes and Jamont Gordon both averaged a team-leading 17.0 points per game. Gordon and senior forward Piotr Stelmach shared team rebounding honors (9.5 rpg), while Rhodes added 8.0 boards and 3.5 blocks per exhibition outing along with shooting 59 percent from the field.

Picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the East Division of the Southland Conference, the Nicholls Colonels, out of Thibodaux, La., return four starters from last year's 9-18 ballclub. Guided by third-year head coach J.P. Piper, Nicholls looks to be led this season by senior forward and first-team preseason all-SLC pick Stefan Blaszczynski, who paced the Colonels in scoring (16.4 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) last season. Junior forward Aaron Scott, a transfer from East Tennessee State, tallied team-high totals of 27 points (6-8 treys) and eight rebounds this past Tuesday in NSU's 83-75 exhibition home win over Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO).

With Saturday's appearance against Nicholls, MSU's Stansbury (164-90 in eight seasons) will move into sole possession of second place behind Richard Williams (191-163 in 12 seasons) on the school's all-time list by coaching in his 255th career game as the Bulldogs' mentor. Another milestone will be reached this weekend when legendary MSU sports broadcaster Jack Cristil begins his 50th basketball season behind the microphone for the Bulldogs.

State is 3-0 all-time versus Nicholls, having defeated the Colonels by an average margin of 27.0 points per game in the three prior meetings. Nicholls marks the first of three Southland Conference opponents that MSU will welcome to Humphrey Coliseum during the next five weeks - Dec. 2 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Dec. 16 vs. McNeese State.

Mississippi State has prevailed in 17 of its last 20 basketball season openers dating back to the 1986-87 campaign, including a 6-2 mark in season openers under Stansbury's guidance. In addition, the Bulldogs are 7-1 in home season openers during the Stansbury era.

Saturday's contest against Nicholls will mark the beginning of a season-opening, three-game homestand for the Bulldogs. MSU plays host to Loyola Marymount this coming Monday (Nov. 13) in a game set to be televised by FSN South/SUN Sports, while State welcomes reigning NCAA Tournament participant and preseason Big South Conference favorite Winthrop to "The Hump" next Saturday (Nov. 18).

Cross Country
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's men's and women's cross country teams will trek to Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Nov. 11, for the 2006 NCAA South Regional, hosted by the University of Tennessee at the Lambert Acres Golf Club.

The women's 8K will kick start the days activity at 9 a.m. CST, followed by the men's 10K event at 10 a.m. CST. The South Region is one of nine NCAA Division I meets taking place across the country this weekend, with the top two teams from each region and the top four individuals not on qualifying teams earning invitations to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 20.

The Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs are coming off impressive finishes at the Southeastern Conference Championship on Oct. 28 in Baton Rouge, La. The women placed fifth, while the men finished sixth at the league meet. Senior Travis McKay has set the pace for the MState men, finishing as the top Bulldog finisher in every meet of the 2006 campaign. Lady Bulldog senior Jennifer McPherson has led the State women in three of the five meets.

A total of 23 teams will compete for the NCAA South Region women's title and NCAA berths – Alabama, Auburn, Belmont, Birmingham-Southern, Central Florida, Chattanooga, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Jacksonville State, Lipscomb, Mississippi, Samford, South Florida, Tennessee, Tennessee Tech, UAB and Vanderbilt.

On the men's side, 26 schools will pursue NCAA qualifying berths - Alabama, Auburn, Austin Peay, Belmont, Birmingham-Southern, Central Florida, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Jacksonville State, Lipscomb, Miami (FL), Mississippi, Samford, South Alabama, South Florida, Tennessee, Tennessee Tech, UAB and Vanderbilt.

The State teams will look to improve on last season's finishes as the men finished the regional in 10th and the women ninth. The Bulldog's best finish in the Regional meet was ninth in 2004. MSU's women posted a program-best eighth-place finish at the 2002 South Regional at the same course as this year's event will take place - Lambert Acres Golf Club.

Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State University has inked Diamond Marks to a national letter-of-intent to compete in track and field for the 2007-08 season. Marks, a native of Lithonia, Ga. competes in the 400 and 800 meter competitions.

As a junior in the prep track ranks, Marks finished second in 800-meter run at the Stephenson Invitational in Atlanta, Ga. Her mark was a team-best for Miller Grove High School. She competed in both the 400 and 800-meter runs at the Dekalb County Track Championships, posting times of 58.28 and 2:26.28 respectively. Marks finished seventh at the Georgia Girls Region 5-AAAA 400-meter event.

"Diamond (Marks) is an extremely talented 400m/800m runner. I'm excited that a versatile athlete like her is going to be a part of our program," said MSU assistant coach Kurt Thomas. "She will be able to immediately contribute to our talented young group of sprinters, as well as Coach Schmidt's already successful middle distance group. I'm happy she's a Bulldog."

Marks also competes in amateur track events in the region. In 2004, she registered a 54.74 time in the 400-meter at the AAU National Championship in New Orleans, La. At that same event, she scored a personal-best 2:14.54 and a third place finish in the 800-meter run. During the indoor season, Marks acclaimed all-America youth honors in indoor track. She won the Southern Indoor 800-meter Championship in 2004.

"I chose Mississippi State because I really liked the team as a whole - felt like a family," said Marks. "They have great facilities and academics and I look forward to running in the Southeastern Confernce."

An outstanding student in the classroom as well, Marks sports a 3.7 overall grade point average. She is a member of the National Honors Society at MGHS.

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