STARKVILLE, Miss. The Mississippi State women's basketball (11-8, 2-3 SEC) travels to Lexington, Ky., Thursday evening for a 6 p.m. CT matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats (14-6, 2-3 SEC) at historic Rupp Arena.
Thursday evening's contest will break a 15-all tie in the series with Kentucky. Last year's 51-46 gave UK their first victory in the series since Feb. 18, 2002. In the last 10 games played, MSU holds an 8-2 advantage, including four wins in Lexington. State has not dropped a contest to the Wildcats on their home floor since Feb. 15, 1998 when UK won 71-62. During the Sharon Fanning era, MState is 10-5 against Fanning's former team. MSU has never faced Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
MSU continues to lead opponents in a majority of statistical categories. The Lady Bulldogs are out-scoring (+1.6) and out-rebounding (+1.0) opponents. MSU averages 63.5 points per game in comparison to the opponents 61.9 points per outing. MSU also records 0.8 fewer turnovers and 1.2 more steals each time out. As a team, MSU ranks fifth in the SEC in offensive rebounds, averaging 15.47 boards in 19 games this season. In conference games, the Lady Bulldogs are third in three-point field goals made, downing an average of six, second in three-point field goals percentage, averaging 35.7 percent each game and fourth in steals with nine each game.
Sophomore guard Marneshia Richard grabbed her first career double-double with a 13 point and 11 assist performance in an 87-73 win over South Carolina on Sunday. Richard's 11 assists broke the sophomore single-game record for most assist in a game surpassing Tina Harris. With the record, Richard becomes the first MSU player to achieve a double-double with points and assists since Tan White recorded 27 points and 10 assists against Georgia on Jan. 31, 2002. Richard leads the team in scoring in conference games only with 14.0 points per contest, shooting 60.5 percent from the field. She also shoots an outstanding 83.3 percent (15-for-18) from the charity stripe.
Freshman forward Tysheka Grimes scored a season-high 28 points to lead MSU in scoring against the Gamecocks. Grimes shot 11-for-17 from the field, including 4-of-6 from behind the arc and a perfect 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. The point-total is the fifth-most ever recorded in a single game by a freshman and replaces former Kodak all-American LaToya Thomas in the spot.
The Wildcats enter Thursday evening's contest 14-6 overall and 3-2 in league play. Junior center Sarah Elliott leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.1 points per game. Junior guard Samantha Mahoney also averages double-digits, tallying 13.3 points each time out. On the boards, senior forward/center Jennifer Humphrey leads the team in rebounding with 9.6 per contest. Elliott is UK's second leading rebounding, bringing down 7.2 rebounds per game.
Kentucky has faced two out-of-conference ranked opponents this season, falling to then-#19 Louisville, 73-83, on Dec. 3, 2006 and dropping a close 51-53 decision to then-seventh ranked Ohio State on Jan. 6, 2007. In their previous contest, the Wildcats defeated Auburn 68-65 to capture their first win in the series since the 1998 season. Humphrey recorded a season-high 16 points and a career-high 20 rebounds for her 12th career double-double.
Following Thursday's game, MState continues their road travels, facing #22 Mississippi in a 2 p.m. contest from Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford. In conjunction with the NCAA and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, fans are asked to join the coaches and staffs from both squads in wearing pink to show support of coaches in the profession battling breast cancer.