News from MSU Media Relations--November 17

The lastest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Football, Men's Basketball, Women's Basketball & Softball.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State defensive back Anthony Johnson's 100-yard interception return that completely shifted momentum to the Bulldogs in their 17-12 upset win over No. 21 Alabama Saturday has been named this week's Pontiac Game-Changing Performance, it was announced during the Pontiac Performance Haltime Report on ESPN on Thursday.

The return set an MSU school-record and tied the NCAA record for longest interception return. It gave MSU a 10-9 lead just seconds before halftime and moments after Alabama was primed to take command of the game at the intermission. Facing a third-and-1 at the Bulldog 1-yard line with 21 seconds left in the half, 'Bama quarterback John Parker Wilson - under heavy rush from Titus Brown - threw short into the end zone and into the waiting arms of Johnson.

Earlier this week, Johnson was named Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week and was awarded the "Master Coaches Survey Nike Game Ball" as the national defensive player of the week.

As a result of winning the online fan voting, Mississippi State earns a $5,000 contribution from Pontiac to its general scholarship fund. Additionally, the play will now be nominated for the "Pontiac Game Changing Performance of the Year" and the chance to win a $100,000 general scholarship from Pontiac.

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Looking to bounce back from a tough 84-82 home loss to reigning NIT runner-up Clemson, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State (1-1) close out a season-opening, three-game homestand by playing host to the University of Tennessee at Martin (2-2) Saturday evening on the MSU campus. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT at Humphrey Coliseum.

Coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs are an even 1-1 on the young season after having their eight-game home winning streak snapped with Thursday's two-point setback to the Clemson Tigers of the ACC. MSU opened the current campaign with a 75-45 home victory over Louisiana Tech last Saturday. Through the first two games of the year, the Bulldogs are averaging 78.5 points on 41-percent shooting as a team. Defensively, MState has limited the opposition to just 31-percent accuracy from the field in addition to having blocked 10 shots in each of the first two contests.

Individually, the Bulldogs have again been paced by the all-SEC tandem of Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes early in the campaign. A preseason all-America candidate, Gordon is averaging 22.0 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists an outing after registering his 11th career double-double (23 points & 12 rebounds) and eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for his career in the Clemson game. A two-time all-SEC forward, Rhodes averages 17.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per contest. Including his first career double-double in the season opener (13 points & 11 rebounds), sophomore Barry Stewart is averaging 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists on the year, while fellow sophomore Jarvis Varnado has continued to be an inside force defensively with 17 rebounds and 12 blocks through the first two games.

Out of the Ohio Valley Conference, the UT Martin Skyhawks are 2-2 on the season after dropping a last-second 78-75 home decision to Central Arkansas this past Thursday. Two days prior, junior guard Lester Hudson recorded what is believed to be the first quadruple-double in NCAA Division I history with 25 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in helping lead UTM to a 116-74 home triumph over Central Baptist College. Hudson is averaging 26.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.3 steals for the season. Guided by ninth-year head coach Bret Campbell, the Skyhawks beat Maine (66-62) and fell to No. 3 Memphis (102-71) in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic, Nov. 5-6. Senior forward Gerald Robinson averages 16.8 points and a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game for UT Martin, while freshman guard Marquis Weddle adds 11.0 points an outing.

Mississippi State owns a 5-1 all-time lead over UT Martin in a series that dates back to the 1980-81 season. Most recently, the Bulldogs claimed a 90-74 home win over the Skyhawks during the 2003-04 season-opener. Eventual SEC Player of the Year Lawrence Roberts made his official MSU playing debut in that previous contest four years ago, posting game-high totals of 26 points and 15 rebounds for the winners.

The Bulldogs will next hit the road to participate in the inaugural Anaheim Classic, Nov. 22-25, at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. MSU opens next week's tournament on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) by taking on the UC Irvine Anteaters in Game 1 slated for a 1 p.m. CT tip-off and set to be televised by ESPNU. MState will then take on either reigning NCAA Sweet 16 participant Southern Illinois or Chattanooga the following day (Nov. 23). With the entire tournament scheduled to be aired by either ESPNU or ESPN2, the inaugural event hosted by ESPNU and the Big West Conference will conclude on Sunday, Nov. 25.

Women's Basketball
November 16, 2007, Fort Collins, CO - Triple Crown Sports has released its tournament field participants for the 2007 Caribbean Challenge Women's Basketball event which will be held in Cancun, Mexico on November 21-23, 2007.

The women's field features Arizona State University, University of Iowa, Kansas State University, Michigan State University, Mississippi State University, University of Northern Illinois, University of Oklahoma and Tulane University. Six of the eight teams participating in Cancun advanced to postseason play last season, highlighted by ASU's NCAA Elite Eight achievement and Oklahoma's Sweet 16 showing. Currently positioned in the AP Top 25 Rankings are Oklahoma (#9), Arizona State (#15) and Michigan State (#17).

Tipping off the Caribbean Challenge on Tuesday, Wednesday 21, 2007, will be Northern Illinois vs. Michigan State and Kansas State vs. Tulane. On the Thanksgiving holiday all eight teams will compete starting with Mississippi State vs. Iowa, followed by Arizona State vs. Oklahoma, Tulane vs. Northern Illinois and Michigan State vs. Kansas State. The final day of competition bids Oklahoma vs. Mississippi State and Iowa vs. Arizona State.

The Caribbean Challenge is sponsored by Triple Crown Sports, which produces women's college basketball events. TCS has run both the Post and Pre-Season WNIT for the past 14 years.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head softball coach Jay Miller announced Friday that Brittany Gates of Houston, Miss., Lindsey Dunlap from Bessemer, Ala., Ka'ilihiwa Smith from Honolulu, Hawaii, and Courtney Moore of El Sobrante, Calif., have signed national letters of intent with the Bulldogs.

"I think our 2008 class is going to end up being one of the top classes we have ever recruited here at Mississippi State," Miller noted. "I think we've really helped ourselves offensively and defensively, and we've been able to get some kids in here with some speed that will make some noise on the bases for us."

Gates, a senior outfielder at Houston High School, is considered one of the top players in the Magnolia State. In her junior season for the Hilltoppers, she hit .413 with 20 stolen bases. She has also been named the Division 3A Defensive Player of the Year for four straight seasons and offensively twice. Academically, the outfielder has been named HHS' Highest Academic Achiever for five years and currently owns a 4.0 grade point average. Gates has also played with the Germantown Red Devils, a travel team out of the Memphis area that won the American Fast Pitch Association Championship in 2006.

"Brittany has tremendous speed, a great arm, and she can really cover a lot of ground, so she should be able to fill in very well since we are losing two outfielders," Miller added.

Dunlap signs with MSU as the reigning Birmingham News' Pitcher of the Year in the state of Alabama. As a junior at Hueytown High School, Dunlap racked up 44 wins with 569 strikeouts while posting a .020 ERA. Of her 44 wins, 33 were shutouts and 13 were no-hitters. She was also named to the Birmingham News' Super All-State Team and Class 6A All-Metro Team, in addition to earning Metro Pitcher of the Year honors. In the summer, Dunlap has played with the Birmingham Vipers, helping them to four straight ASA State Championships and twice qualifying for ASA Nationals. This past year, she played for the Florida Gold and then helped pace the Gold Coast Hurricanes to a third-place team finish during the ASA Gold Nationals.

"Lindsay is probably one of the best pitchers we have ever recruited here at Mississippi State. I think she will step right in and make an immediate impact on the mound for us," Miller claimed.

Smith comes from the Aloha State as a multi-position player for the Bulldogs. While at Kapolei High School, she has played centerfield, catcher and first base. This past season as a junior, she batted .500 while driving in 30 runs as well as recording 30 stolen bases. She has started every varsity game since her freshman year and has earned first team all-state honors all three seasons. As a freshman, the left-hander helped lead her team to a state runner-up finish. In the classroom, she has accumulated a 3.4 GPA and was a 2006 nominee for the National Society of High School Scholars. Smith played summer ball with the Hawaii Pearls.

"Ka'ilihiwa is a big-time player that can play anywhere. She can do a lot of things for us. She's got great speed, she's a tremendous hitter, and really has the ability to make an impact right away," Miller noted.

Moore will be coming to Bulldog country from St. Mary's College Prep High School in California. The shortstop/outfielder hit .591 with six home runs, 31 runs batted in and 18 stolen bases as a junior. As a three-time first team All-Bay Shore Athletic League selection, she was named the BSAL co-MVP this past season. Moore played her travel ball with the California Sorcerers.

"Courtney Moore gives us a great athlete who can play anywhere, including the outfield, and should be able to swing a really big bat for us," Miller said.

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