STARKVILLE, Miss. The Mississippi State University women's basketball team travels to Knoxville, Tenn., on Thursday evening for a matchup with the fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Volunteers. MSU is 1-0 in conference road games this season, having defeated then-20th ranked Arkansas in Fayetteville on Jan. 7.
Tennessee leads the all-time series 25-0, dating back to the 1985-86 season. The Lady Bulldogs have had some close calls in games played against the Lady Vols, especially those in the SEC Tournament. In MSU's appearance in the tournament title game, the Lady Vols bested MState by three - 60-57 - in Chattanooga, Tenn., on March 5, 2000. Three years later on March 8, 2003, Tennessee squeaked by with a one-point 76-75 win in Little Rock, Ark. In regular season contests in Starkville, the Lady Vols won by four in 2000 and by two in 2002.
Sophomore forward Lauren Roberts scored a season-high 10 points on Sunday afternoon in a 50-77 loss to then fifth-ranked LSU. It was Roberts' first 10-point outing of the season and fifth of her career. She was the only Lady Bulldog to reach double digits on the day. MSU's 78.6 percent free-throw shooting against LSU (11-for-14) was the best single-game percentage posted by the Lady Bulldogs this season. As a team, MState shoots 61.3 percent from the charity stripe. Previously, the Lady Bulldogs shot 73.9 percent against Arkansas on the road.
Three games into the conference season, sophomore guard Marneshia Richard leads the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game, while junior forward Imesia Jackson and freshman guard Alexis Rack average 11.0 points per contest. Richard continues to put up strong defensive numbers, averaging three takeaways and three defensive boards in each game. She also has a team-high eight assists and 37 minutes played in those games. On the offensive side, Richard makes 58 percent of field goals and has hit 11-for-13 free throws to average 85 percent from the free-throw line.
The Lady Volunteers enter Thursday's contest 16-1 on the year and a perfect 3-0 in conference play. UT is ranked fourth in both polls. The only blemish on the UT schedule is a 57-70 loss at North Carolina on Dec. 3, 2006. Tennessee has also defeated three other ranked opponents this season - #19 George Washington, #23 Texas and #5 UConn. The Lady Vols also have wins against UCLA, Stanford, Old Dominion and Notre Dame. In conference play, UT has defeated Georgia, Florida and Alabama.
Candace Parker leads the Lady Vols in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19.7 points and 8.7 boards per game. Parker has been the team's leading scorer in 13 of 16 games this season and the leading rebounder in 12 games. In their previous contest, the Lady Vols downed 15th-ranked Georgia, 52-41. Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle led the way with 14 points each.
The Lady Bulldogs are 1-3 this season against ranked opponents with the win coming against then-#20 Arkansas. Against the fourth-ranked team in the country, the Lady Bulldogs are 1-6 all-time. State's lone win over #4 was against Georgia, 78-72, on Jan. 31, 1999.
Following Thursday's game, the Lady Bulldogs return home briefly to host South Carolina on Jan. 21 in a 2 p.m. contest at Humphrey Coliseum. Sunday's contest is 4-H Day.