News from MSU Media Relations--February 15

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

STARKVILLE, Miss. - After opening the season with a 4-1 record at the Bulldog Round Robin, the Mississippi State softball team will take to the road for the first time in 2007 when they travel to Las Vegas, Nev. for the UNLV Louisville Slugger Desert Classic.

State opens the tournament Thursday night against Brigham Young at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs defeated BYU in their only other meeting in 2004. MSU opens Friday's slate of games at 11 a.m. when it looks to earn its first ever victory over tenth-ranked Cal. The Bulldogs dropped the previous three meetings. MState follows that match-up when they face Cal-Davis for the first time at 5 p.m. Mississippi Sate closes the tournament Saturday against Hawaii (11 a.m.) and Utah State (2 p.m.).

"Obviously, we're looking forwards to going out to Vegas," said MSU head coach Jay Miller. "We're facing some pretty tough competition, with Cal and Hawaii, who's been playing real well and BYU is undefeated. So we'll have a good test out there and see where we'll be able to compete in the SEC."

Courtney Bures looks to extend her sizzling start to the season. The junior shortstop hit .500 at the Bulldog Round Robin, scoring four times and driving in 10 runs, capped off by her five RBI day against Purdue.

Kelli Miller comes into the Desert Classic with a 3-0 record and a 0.00 ERA. In 18 innings of work, the senior has allowed just two unearned runs, and is currently on a 17.1 inning scoreless streak.

Brigham Young brings back 15 letterwinners, but only one arm of its pitching staff as the Cougars look to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. BYU started this season going 5-0 at the BYU/UVSC Red Desert Classic, outscoring its opponents 46-7. The Cougars are led by Tracee Hoch. The senior second baseman hit .500 with two homeruns, four doubles, six runs and 11 RBI. Christie Zinanti (2-0, 0.64 ERA, 8 K) will look to pace Brigham Young in the circle. BYU was projected to finish third in the Mountain West preseason poll.

The Bears enter the tournament ranked 10th in the USA Today/NFCA preseason poll and the current Softball poll. Cal returns five field starters and one pitcher from a team that advanced to the NCAA Super Regional last year. Cal started the season, going 3-1 at the San Diego State Tournament. The Bears outscored their opponents 16-2 in four games. In the circle, Cal is led by Brittany LaRosa. The freshman pitcher is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. The Bears are led at the plate by sophomore outfielder Morgan Siegel and junior infielder Katie Vickers, who are both hitting .400 through the first four games. Cal was projected to finish sixth in a preseason poll of the Pac-10 coaches.

Cal-Davis brings back five field starters and one starting pitcher from last season's 15-39 squad. The Aggies will take the field for the first time this weekend, as their season opening doubleheader with St. Mary's was cancelled. UCD is highlighted by the return of junior Ashley Johnson. Johnson hit .283 with a team-leading five homeruns and 26 RBI. From the mound, Cal-Davis is led by senior Lindsay Tognetti (8-17, 2.40 ERA, 164 K).

Hawaii enters the tournament on a roll, having twice defeated No. 20 Nebraska, as well as No. 24 Auburn and No. 25 DePaul at its own Oceanic Time Warner Cable Paradise Classic to start the 2007 campaign 5-1. The Rainbow Wahine returns eight field starters, as well as four pitchers from a team that advanced to the WAC Tournament Championship last year. At the plate, Hawaii is led by first baseman Tyleen Tausaga. The senior leads UH with a .412 batting average, as well as three home runs, four runs and nine RBI. Justine Smethurst heads the Rainbow Wahine from the mound. The sophomore pitcher is 2-1 with a 0.82 ERA and 13 strikeouts. Hawaii was projected to finish second behind Fresno State in a preseason poll of the Western Athletic Conference coaches.

Utah State enters the Classic having gone 2-2 at the BYU/UVSC Red Desert Classic. The Aggies brings back five field starters and one starting pitcher from last season's 15-39 squad. USU is highlighted by the return of junior Amy Schaible. The third baseman hit .248 with a homerun, 12 runs and nine RBI. From the mound, Leslie Higley (1-12, 5.27 ERA, 42 K) is the Aggies top returning hurler.

Following this week's action, the Bulldogs will return home to face Mississippi Valley State, Wednesday, February 21 at 4 p.m.

Women's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State women's basketball team (16-9, 6-4 SEC) returns home Thursday evening, facing the 12th-ranked Vanderbilt Commodores (21-4, 7-3 SEC) in a 7 p.m. contest from Humphrey Coliseum. Thursday's contest marks the last mid-week game at home for the Lady Bulldogs this season.

Sophomore guard Marneshia Richard scored a career-high 24 points and tied a career-best with seven rebounds as MSU defeated Florida, 79-74, Sunday afternoon in Gainesville. Richard led the MSU charge late in the game and hit key free throws with 26 seconds remaining in the game. She also added four assists in the win.

Freshman Alexis Rack turned in 19 points while junior Imesia Jackson tallied 14 points. The scoring front was rounded out with freshman forward Tysheka Grimes adding 11 points. For the second-straight game, freshman Bethany Washington posted a double-figure rebounding total with 10. The Lady Bulldogs continued their hot free-throw shooting by tying a season-high 87.5 percent from the charity stripe on 21-for-24 shooting.

MSU currently ranks in the top half of the SEC in several statistical categories. In league games only, the Lady Bulldogs are second in three-point field goal percentage (.352), third free-throw percentage (.724) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.273). The ladies rank fourth in steals (9.40), fifth in scoring offense (69.5) and are sixth in rebounding offense (39.1), offensive rebounds (13.80) and defensive rebounds (25.30). Individually in SEC games only, Richard is second in field goal percentage (.500) and third in steals (2.70), while Rack is second in three-point field goals made (2.50).

Overall, MSU is third in three-point field goal percentage defense (.289), fourth in three-point field goals made (5.76), fifth in offensive rebounds (15.12) and sixth in field goal percentage (.384). Individually in overall games, Richard is fourth in steals (2.44) and Rack is seventh in three-point field goals made (1.80).

Vanderbilt enters Thursday's game 21-4 overall and 7-3 in league play (fifth). The Commodores are on a four-game winning streak and are ranked 12th in the Associated Press poll and 13th in the WBCA Coaches poll. Carla Thomas leads the team in scoring (16.4) and rebounds (6.8), while two other players - Caroline Williams (12.2 ppg) and Christina Wirth (11.4 ppg) also average double figures.

The Commodores' losses on the year are to opponents who were ranked at the time of the game - Duke, Ole Miss, Georgia and Tennessee. On the road this season, VU is 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the league. The Commodores are second in the league in scoring offense (78.1 ppg) and first in free throw percentage (.739), field goal percentage (.504) and three-point field goal percentage (.430). VU is also first in rebounding defense (32.9) and assists (18.84). In league games only, the Commodores are first in scoring offense (73.6).

This season, MSU is 2-4 against ranked opponents, having defeated #20 Arkansas in Fayetteville (81-73) and #22 Mississippi (73-71) in Oxford. State is 0-6 all-time against #12. The last time MSU faced an opponent ranked #12 was Jan. 8, 2003 (Georgia, 70-88).

Following Thursday's game, the Lady Bulldogs close out their 2006-07 home schedule by hosting archrival Mississippi in a 2 p.m. contest from Humphrey Coliseum. Sunday's game is sponsored by the Lady Bulldog Mentors.

Women's Tennis
STARKVILLE , Miss. - Mississippi State 's Lady Bulldog tennis team travels to South Alabama on Thursday, Feb. 15, to compete in its first road match of 2007. The contest is slated to begin at 11 a.m. in Mobile, Ala.

The Jaguars lead the series 16-7 with USA also taking the last meeting 4-3 on Feb. 24, 2006 in Starkville. South Alabama comes into the match with a 1-4 record, obtaining their lone win over Southeastern Louisiana. The Jaguars have suffered a rough schedule thus far, including three losses to ranked opponents including a 4-3 heartbreaker to No. 32 Florida International.

The Lady Bulldogs upset No. 68 Troy this past Saturday when they took victories at courts #3 and #4 to swing the match 4-2. The win improved State's record to 2-1 and served as their first win over a ranked opponent since Feb. 18, 2006, when they defeated No. 61 Texas Tech at home. The upset win helped place State in this week's poll with a No. 75 ranking.

"The Troy match was a big win for us," said Lane. "The girls believed we could do it and really pulled together to get the job done. South Alabama is going to be really tough; they are really solid from top to bottom. They are a team that is very comparable to what we face in the SEC so it will be a good test for us."

Following Thursday's match, MSU's lady netters will be back in action this Saturday as they welcome Southeastern Louisiana at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre. The match is slated for 1 p.m.

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