*The only other common 2007-08 opponent is Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, a member with SELa of the Southland Conference and defending league champions. State plays at the Islanders on Dec. 21.
*The Lions already own three wins over Mississippi schools, having beaten both Alcorn State and Millsaps College in Hammond and taking a 61-49 win at Jackson State.
About the Lions: For a lineup that's been almost entirely rebuilt, this Lions club is not only playing well; they might be an even better team than last year's 16-14 results. Certainly their competitiveness in those two SEC games says good things about Coach Jim Yarbrough's third edition. Losing four starters, including record-setting outside shooter Daryl Cohen, and 75% of the scoring resulted in only a fourth-place projection in the Southland's east division. Yet with a couple of jucos stepping into prominent roles and some veteran backups stepping it up the Lions should exceed expectations. It's helped that the lone returning starter, forward Kevyn Green, has really upgraded his game from a 8.5 point average last year to almost 16 points so far this season. He scores both inside and out, as the team's leading three-point threat, hits the boards hard, and gets to the foul line regularly. Soph guard Jeremy Dunbar comes off the bench as the alternate outside threat, but this is not an offense that relies on perimeter scoring. In fact SELa is selective about how often they pump up the longball, resulting in 10-of-31 shooting in their two SEC contests. Though not all that tall or stout, the Lions like playing closer to the goal and go with three forward-types in the lineup. Skinny center Patrick Sullivan led the league in blocks by a freshman and has a dozen this year already, and is averaging almost double-figure rebounds. Dunbar and forward Warrell Span have been good juco additions on both ends of the court, but Yarbrough also picked up some freshman help in forwards David Ndoumba and Daryl Arnold (a Piney Woods School grad and Jackson native). The Lions like to make contact and are foul-prone with 111 personals already, and while they haven't shot a lot of free throws they do cash in on what opportunities arise.
Probable Lineup: F Kevyn Green, SR 6-5 205, 15.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 19 3ptrs; F Tavaris Nance SR 6-6 205, 11.0ppg, 4.9rpg; F Warrell Span, JR 6-6 215, 10.9ppg, 3.6rpg; C Patrick Sullivan, SO 6-9 205, 9.4ppg, 9.6rpg, 12 blks; G Dekyron Nicks, SR 5-9 180, 8.6rpg, 3.9rpg, 14 stls.
Top Reserves: G Jeremy Dunbar, SO 6-5 180, 7.0ppg, 1.7rpg, 12 3ptrs; F David Ndoumba, FR 6-7 210, 5.0ppg, 6.3rpg; F Daryl Arnold, FR 6-6 210, 4.9ppg, 3.9rpg; G Howard Austin, SO 5-5 170, 0.6ppg, 2.4apg.
Probable Bulldog Lineup: F Charles Rhodes JR 6-8 245, 15.9ppg, 54%fgs, 7.1rpg, 12 blks; C Jarvis Varnado SO 6-9 210, 4.4ppg, 8.4rpg, 27 blks; G/F Jamont Gordon JR 6-4 230, 17.4ppg, 5.9rpg, 13 3ptrs, 3.7apg; G Ben Hansbrough SO 6-3 205, 10.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.7apg, 14 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart SO 6-2 170, 11.4ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.9apg, 11 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: C/F Brian Johnson JR 6-9 245, 4.6ppg, 3.3rpg; G Phil Turner rFR 6-3 170, 2.7ppg, 2.1rpg.
How They Compare:
Points Per Game: MSU 71.1ppg, SELa 73.6ppg
Points Allowed: MSU 63.3ppg, SELa 54.4ppg
Field Goal Shooting: MSU 45.5%, SELa 47.6%
Shooting Defense: MSU 36.9%, SELa 34.0%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 32.9%, SELa 38.1%
3-Pointers Attempted: MSU 20.0pg, SELa 16.9pg
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 66.7%, SELa 67.3%
Free Throw Attempts: MSU 18.9pg, SELa 15.7pg
Rebounding: MSU 41.6rpg, SELa 43.3rpg
Rebound Margin: MSU +6.6, SELa +11.9
Blocked Shots: MSU 7.4, SELa 3.4
Assists Average: MSU 13.0, SELa 14.0
Turnover Margin: MSU –2.7, SELa +1.0
Steals Average: MSU 6.1, SELa 6.6
The Series: Until two years ago Bulldog teams had a perfect record in the series. Then the Lions came to Humphrey Coliseum and took a 57-46 upset in 2005-06 their first win in 16 tries dating back to 1958. All but two of those games have been played at State where the Bulldogs are 13-1. State won the only trip to Hammond, in 1988; and took a neutral-site game in Southaven in 2001. Rick Stansbury teams are 3-1 against Southeastern Louisiana.
Bulldog Notes: Two Bulldogs joined the 1,000-Point Club in November. First, junior G Jamont Gordon reached that plateau with the second basket of the second game this season. He now has 1,096 points in 72 career games and ranks 25th on the all-time points list. Senior F/C Charles Rhodes is in 29th place at 1,024 points in 86 career games.
*Rhodes is just about to become the 17th Bulldog with 1,000 points/500 rebounds. He has 499 boards in his career. But he'll have to get that rebound fast to keep Gordon from making the 1,000/500 club first as the junior has 494 boards himself. It will take 564 rebounds to move into the MSU career top-25.
*Gordon has scored double-digits every game this season, and in 64 of his 72 career games. He has averaged 15.2 points for his career. The last time he did not get at least ten points was at Georgia on February 24, or 14 games ago.
*Gordon has one double-double this year, in the Clemson game with 23 points and 12 rebounds. That gives him ten D-Ds for his career.
*Gordon now has 288 career free throws, just two short of tying Rickey Brown (1977-80) for 10th on the MSU list. Gordon's 421 attempts do tie Brown for 10th place on that chart.
*Gordon began this junior season standing ninth on the MSU career assists list. After six games he has climbed into a tie for 7th place with Butch Pierre (1981-84) at 342.
*Gordon has started every game of his college career.
*Rhodes' 25 points against Miami Oh. Sunday was the most by a Bulldog this season, and a bucket shy of his career-best game, 27 points as a freshman against Georgia.
*With 22 points in the win over Murray State, Rhodes notched consecutive 20-point games for the first time since his sophomore season. He had seven 20-point games as a junior.
*Rhodes has blocked 12 shots in seven games, giving him 113 for his career. He's closing in on Wiley Peck (117, 1976-79) for 6th place on the list.
*Rhodes is under his career field-goal shooting pace early this year at 53.4%. He was a 56.0% shooter his first three seasons. Rhodes is still clinging to 10th place in MSU career shooting.
*And his free throw shooting is off as well, from 70.7% the preceding seasons to 63.3% this year.
*After posting six double-doubles in the previous three years, Rhodes has a pair of D-Ds already this season against Cal-Irvine and Miami.
*Sophomore G Barry Stewart re-wrote the MSU freshman record with 68 three-point goals. Interestingly, he's on almost an identical pace this year; in his first seven freshman games he was 12-of-31 at the arc, after these first seven games he is 11-of-32.
*Stewart is 5-of-18 shooting from the home-court arc; on neutral courts he is 6-of-15.
*Starting has allowed Stewart to show more passing skills, averaging 2.9 assists so far this year compared to 1.2 as a freshman backup.
*Sophomore G Ben Hansbrough has made at least one three-pointer in every game this year. He hit treys in 24 of 35 freshman games, including six of the last seven, for the third-most treys by a Bulldog rookie ever (47).
*Starters Gordon, Hansbrough, and Stewart have 38 of the team's 46 made treys.
*Gordon has 82 career treys in three years; Stewart has 79 in two years. The threshold for MSU's career top-ten is 111 (Doug Hartsfield 1988-91).
*Soph C Jarvis Varnado set a rookie-year record by blocking 67 shots last season, or 1.9 each freshman game. This season, Varnado already has 27 blocks in seven games, or 3.9-per, and he hasn't failed to swat at least two shots each game.
*In just 42 career games Varnado is up to 94 blocks, placing him seventh on the MSU all-time list, right behind Rhodes.
*Junior F/C Brian Johnson, who redshirted last year as a transfer, averaged 3.2 rebounds in 30 games at Louisville in 2005-06. Through six games with Mississippi State he is averaging 3.3 rebounds.
*Coach Rick Stansbury now has 189 career victories, and is two-shy of catching his former boss Richard Williams (1987-98) for the MSU record of 191 wins.
*Stansbury teams are 57-10 in December games and 29-1 on the home court.