*This is the first of 16 Bulldog regular-season games scheduled for either regional or national telecast. Seven of these are to be aired by Fox Sports Net, including next Tuesday's contest at Clemson.
*Mississippi State's last experience with a West Coast Conference opponent came last year when the Bulldogs defeated Santa Clara 82-69 in overtime at Humphrey Coliseum. State also beat SC three years ago in Santa Clara. And in 2004-05 the Bulldogs beat WCC member St. Mary's in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic consolation round in New York. This is the first game against a SEC team for LMU Coach Rodney Tention.
About the Lions: The Bulldogs enjoyed beating up on a smallish and inexperienced Nicholls State squad in the opener; the second contest of the season is another matter as Loyola-Marymount brings a more balanced lineup to Humphrey Coliseum. Second-year coach Tention has good reason to expect better things after going 12-18 his first season in Los Angeles. And that record is somewhat deceptive because after a rough start and nine no-conference losses the Lions played much better in the 2006 portion of their schedule, going 8-6 and tying for second in the West Coast Conference with St. Mary's (a MSU opponent two years ago). Then in the league tourney title game LMU was within seconds of upsetting Gonzaga and netting the program's first postseason attention since the brief, explosive glories of the late 1990s when the Lions were the epitome of run-and-gun. A NCAA berth is very much in the plans this season, and a ranking of the so-called ‘mid major' programs round the country lists Marymount 16th of 25. The chief reasons are senior standouts Brandon Worthy and Matthew Knight, regarded as likely the best outside/inside tandem in the WCC. Both reached 1,000 career points during March's league tournament. Knight is the man in the middle, having averaged 16.2 points as a junior with 10.0 rebounds. He posted 17 double-doubles out of those 30 games and is a preseason all-America candidate. So is Worthy, coming off his 15.0 points and 4.3 assist season. He scored 20 or more points in the last nine games.This guard also draws fouls frequently and cashes in, with 162 free throws made last winter. He's joined in the backcourt by junior Jon Ziri, who moved into the lineup in the first month of last season and never left. He provides something of everything, having scored 5.8 points with 4.3 boards, 72 assists and 47 steals. Damien Martin started as the third guard in LMU's opener, having missed the whole 2005-06 season with a torn Achilles. He played well the previous two years though, so this backcourt is comfortable. What LMU needs is help for Knight, and transfer Derick Grubb should provide it. He is one of those ‘fifth-year' transfers allowed by the NCAA starting this season, and played 85 games at Pepperdine as an undergrad. Not only does he bring bulk to the lineup, this big guy can hit the long jumper as well. Tention is also looking to mix in some younger big bodies, having brought in three freshmen standing 6-9 or taller. This should help address LMU's problems with rebounding last season. The Lions also lost their best outside scorer and based on the first outing this hasn't been replaced, though Worthy and Ziri did combine for 53 treys last season. Still if the new post players can ease the burden on Knight and the senior leadership sets the right tone, the Lions should have more to roar about in Tention's second season.
Probable Starting Lineups (one-game statistics)
Loyola Marymount: F Matthew Knight, SR, 6-8 240, 23pts, 9rebs, 3blks; F Derick Grubb, SR, 6-9 255, 10pts, 3 rebs; G Brandon Worthy, SR, 6-2 205, 19pts, 7rebs, 7asts; G Damien Martin, JR, 6-2 200, 2pts, 4asts; G Jon Ziri, JR, 6-2 200, 3pts, 3asts.
Top Backups: G Adoyah Miller, sR, 6-5,205, 5pts, 2rebs; F Marko Deric, SO, 6-9 203, 4pts, 3rebs; G John Montgomery, SR, 6-1 175, 2pts, 2rebs.
Mississippi State: F Richard Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 7pts, 4rebs, 4 asts; F Piotr Stelmach, SR, 6-9 204, 5pts, 5rebs; C Charles Rhodes, JR, 6-8 240, 14pts, 5rebs; G Reginald Delk, SO, 6-4 175, 14pts, 3rebs; G Jamont Gordon, SO, 6-4 225, 14pts, 9rebs, 7asts.
Top Backups: G Barry Stewart, FR, 6-2 165, 14pts, 2rebs; G Ben Hansbrough, FR, 6-3 200, 10pts, 2rebs; F Jarvis Varnado, FR, 6-9 195, 5pts, 6rebs, 3blks; C Vernon Goodridge, JR, 6-9 225, 4pts, 3rebs.
The Series: This is the first meeting of the schools on hardwood.
By The Numbers (One-Game Statistics):
Points Per Game: MSU 90, LMU 68
PPG Allowed: MSU 55, LMU 65
FG Shooting: MSU 66.0%, LMU 49.1%
FG Defense: MSU 35.9%, LMU 43.4%
3PT Shooting: MSU 46.2%, LMU 12.5%
3PT Per Game: MSU 12, LMU 1
Rebounding: MSU 44, LMU 32
Rebounds Margin: MSU +25, LMU even
FT Shooting: MSU 63.2%, LMU 68.4%
Assists PG: MSU 19, LMU 18
Turnover Margin: MSU –12, LMU even
Bulldog Basketball Notes: Rick Stansbury, his ninth season in charge now underway, now has coached the second-most Bulldog basketball games of any MSU mentor at 255. He broke his tie with the legendary Babe McCarthy on Saturday, and is now 99 games in back of his former boss Coach Richard Williams who directed 354 Dog games. Stansbury has 165 victories and needs four more to catch McCarthy for second place on the career list. Williams had 191 wins.
*In Stansbury's nine seasons, the Bulldogs are now 31-7 in November games.
*There are no current Dogs yet in the career top-20 for either scoring or rebounding. Junior C Charles Rhodes is on a pace to reach both milestones sometime next season. Rhodes now has 462 career points and 242 rebounds; the minimums for top-20 status are 1,144 points and 564 rebounds.
*With 14 points in this year's opener, Rhodes has extended his streak of scoring double-digits to 19 games dating back to last December 30.
*Soph G Jamont Gordon also had 14 points in the opening game, giving him a string of scoring in double-digits of 13 games. Gordon was also credited with seven assists against Nicholls State; last year he had seven or more assists in eight games.
*One game into his second season Gordon has matched his rookie-year high for made-treys in a game, with four. He had a quartet of threeballs against Santa Clara, but only 27 for the entire season in 104 attempts.
*But Gordon also had nine turnovers in the opener. He gave the ball away 142 times last season, most in the SEC.
*Gordon played ‘only' 29 minutes against Nicholls State. As a freshman he set the class record for minutes played with 988, breaking the mark of 968 set in 1981-82 by Jeff Norwood. He was the only Bulldog to play in all 30 games last season.
*After setting the freshman-year record for made-treys with 59, soph G Reginald Delk made two longballs Saturday. Delk needs 40 more treys to move into the career top-ten in just two seasons.
*The Bulldogs had their streak of leading the SEC in rebound margin end last winter, at five years (an all-time standard according to league records). But they got this year off to a good start on the glass with a 44-19 margin over NSU.
*State had as many made treys as free throws, 12 each, in the win over NSU.
*In that win the Bulldogs shot 66%, the best accuracy for a game since shooting 67% against Eastern Kentucky in 1991-92.
*But the 29 turnovers were the most by a MSU team since the 1996-97 Bulldogs lost the ball 31 times at Kentucky.
*Stansbury used five veterans to start the first game of this season, but it was a fivesome that did not open a game last year together. This wasn't easy because State put ten differing lineups on the floor in 30 games for 2005-06.