STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs (10-8, 1-3 SEC) return home Sunday afternoon to face the Gamecocks of South Carolina (11-8, 1-3 SEC) in a 2 p.m. contest at Humphrey Coliseum. MSU will honor Mississippi 4-H at Sunday afternoon's contest.
MSU leads the overall series with the Gamecocks, 11-8, with South Carolina having won both contests last season. State's last win was a 55-48 victory over USC in Columbia on Jan. 6, 2005. MSU holds a 7-2 advantage in those games played in Starkville.
Coming off one of the toughest stretches in league play, the Lady Bulldogs look to rebound from three consecutive losses to teams ranked in the top 15, two of which were ranked in the top five in the country. In their previous contest, the Lady Bulldogs fell 73-44 at fourth-ranked Tennessee on Thursday evening in Knoxville.
Four 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 averages 10.0 points per contest. Richard makes 60 percent of field goals and hits 13-for-15 free throws to average 86.7 percent from the charity stripe. Overall in 18 games this season, Jackson averages double-digits, scoring 11.5 points per game.
Rebounds have been critical for the Lady Bulldogs this season. MSU is 7-1 on the year when out-rebounding its opponent. Despite the closing gap, MState ended its difficult run continuing to lead opponents in a majority of statistical categories. The Lady Bulldogs are out-scoring (+0.9) and out-rebounding (+0.6) opponents. MSU averages 62.2 points per game in comparison to the opponents 61.3 points per outing. MSU also records 0.8 fewer turnovers and 1.2 more steals each time out.
The Gamecocks enter Sunday afternoon's contest with MSU with an 11-8 overall record and a 1-3 mark in conference play. USC fell to 24th-ranked Mississippi on Thursday evening, 76-57, in Oxford. South Carolina has dropped contests at Penn State (57-68), vs. #3 Oklahoma (51-78), at #10 Stanford (54-69) and at home against #14 Vanderbilt (66-67).
Iva Sliskovic leads the Gamecocks in scoring, averaging 9.4 points per contest. She also leads the team in rebounding, bringing down 5.4 boards each time out. Lauren Simms is second on the team in scoring with 9.1 points per game. In conference play, Simms averages double-digits, 11.3 points per game to carry the team. In their previous contest against the Rebels, Sliskovic led South Carolina with 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting and Simms scored 12 points in the loss. Ilona Burgrova led USC with seven rebounds.
Honoring 4-H is an annual event for Head Coach Sharon Fanning and the Lady Bulldogs. According to the Mississippi 4-H Web site, 4-H offers programs and growth opportunities that put the heads, hearts, hands, and health of Mississippi's youth to work learning and applying the essential elements of the 4-H program: belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. MSU's state 4-H specialist, Ray Wilkinson, and Mississippi 4-H council president, Kimberly Watson, will serve as guest coaches at Sunday's contest.
Following Sunday's game, the Lady Bulldogs return to action Thursday evening, facing the Kentucky Wildcats in a 6 p.m. CT tipoff from Lexington's Rupp Arena.
ATHENS, Ga. - Mississippi State sophomore Martina Banikova and freshman Valeriya Makarycheva opened up the 2007 spring season Friday by claiming day one singles victories in their respective draws at the Georgia Invitational.
Banikova and Makarycheva took care of their Troy foes, downing each in two sets. Banikova bested Claudia Strauss 6-2, 6-1 in the Red Draw while Makarycheva routed Troy's Nicole Shaw in identical 6-2 sets in the Black Draw. Banikova will meet Georgia 's third-seeded and 88th-ranked Monika Danicevic in the second round Saturday while Makarycheva faces UGA's Adrienne Elsberry.
In other singles play, State's Elna de Villiers carried her Red Draw match to three sets before bowing out 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Kansas State's Tamar Kvaratskhelia. Also in that draw, Lady Bulldog Renee Joseph matched up with Yvette Hyndman of Georgia , falling 7-6(7), 6-3. Those two players, along with other Lady Bulldog first-round victims, will compete in consolation action Saturday.
In doubles competition Friday, Banikova and Makarycheva hung tight against the 42nd-ranked Georgia pair of Dancevic and Kelley Hyndman, ultimately dropping an 8-5 decision.
The battle of the Bulldogs continued as the two remaining State's doubles teams competed against teams from UGA. State's duo of Daniela Juskova and DeAndra Saddler fought hard in their match against Georgia's Elsberry and Natalie Frazier before succumbing to them 8-6. The final tandem of de Villiers and Joseph dropped their match 8-3 to Yvette Hyndman and Darya Ivanov.
Competition continues tomorrow at the tournament. Doubles play will resume at 8 a.m. CT in a second cycle of round robin. Singles action is slated for 10:30 a.m. CT with consolation play to follow in the afternoon.
Women's Track & Field
CLEMSON , S.C. - Mississippi State's Marrissa Harris and Laquinta Aaron both advanced to the finals of their respective sprint events on Friday at the Clemson Invitational to open the indoor season for the Lady Bulldogs.
Harris posted a time of 9.42 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles, while Aaron, participating in her first collegiate meet, turned in a time of 8.24 in the 60-meter dash. Aaron is a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., and prepped at Northridge High School. In throwing events, sophomore Emily Sanders placed seventh in the 20-lb. weight throw with a final throw of 52 and a half feet, a new personal-record, besting her previous mark of 51-05 ½.
In the 5000-meter run, sophomore Nicole Rosetti crossed the line in a personal-best 18: 45.00 to finish fourth in the event.
The Clemson Invitational will conclude on Saturday at the Clemson Indoor Track and Field Complex.