*Mississippi State has won 23-straight December home games dating back to 2000.
*This is Mississippi State's second home game with a ACC club. The Bulldogs lost on November 15 to Clemson 84-82. Miami does not play any SEC teams this regular season, and lost their last such inter-conference meeting…at home to Mississippi State a year ago. State went 2-1 against ACC squads last season, losing at Clemson while winning at Miami and whipping Florida State in Starkville in the NIT quarterfinals.
*Mississippi State is 18-38 against the current lineup of schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, though many such games came when such schools as Georgia Tech (SEC), or Florida State and Virginia Tech (Metro) were in other leagues. The only current ACC school State has never played is Boston College.
About the Hurricanes: After a year of both bad bounces and breaks, everything is going the right way at last for Frank Haith and his third Miami club. Eight games in and the Hurricanes have lost neither a game nor a player to the sort of injuries that derailed their 2006-07 campaign. Plus, the freshmen and sophomores forced to carry last year's load are a matured bunch able to win the close contests that got away (their last three defeats of '07 were all in overtime). The biggest loss actually came in a game-won when center Anthony King hurt a wrist against Georgia Tech and missed the next 24 dates. He was granted a second senior season and is making the most of it, averaging close on to a double-double so far this year. Miami has even more muscle with junior forward Jimmy Graham, back after missing eight ACC games with a broken hand. This might be the most physical front line the Bulldogs will see all winter, including junior forward Brian Asbury who picked up his production markedly when fellow big ‘Canes were sidelined. Powered by this trio, Miami is tough to beat for either a rebound or an easy path to the basket. And there's no drop-off when soph Dwayne Collins takes his turns on the baseline; in fact he's the best-percentage shooter of all the big men. Yet the backcourt makes their contributions, too. Most of all third-year soph Jack McClinton, who began his career at Sienna before transferring. Activated last year he was third-team All-ACC with 16.7 points per game and 91 treys. His average is down somewhat this time but only because others are also getting into the scoring action; McClinton still gets his shots and point and has scored double-digits in 32 of his 37 games, and is a 55% marksman at the arc. Frosh Eddie Rios has started the three games McClinton didn't and is actually tops on the team in assists. Soph James Dews is the other gunner in the rotation, on a team that is eerily efficient at the arc. And nobody is likely to get tired as Miami has used a regular rotation of ten men. Ball-handling is still something of a concern, and the ‘Canes don't block quite as many balls as their size would imply. Yet if this lineup, and bench, remain intact Haith has a club to contend with in the ACC. And, every opportunity for the first NCAA berth since 2002.
Probable Miami Lineup: F Jimmy Graham, JR 6-8 251, 5.5ppg, 4.4.rpg; F Brian Asbury, JR 6-7 223, 9.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 48%fgs; C Anthony King, SR 6-9 246, 10.8ppg, 9.1rpg, 16 blks; G James Dews, SO 6-3 200, 11.4ppg, 2.9rpg, 17 3ptrs; G Jack McClinton, JR 6-1 185, 12.2ppg, 2.0rpg, 2.5apg, 16 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: G Lance Hurdle, JR 6-2 180, 7.3ppg, 9 3ptrs; G Eddie Rios, FR 6-0 190, 5.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.4apg; F Dwayne Collins, SO 6-8 235, 9.0ppg, 5.6rpg, 60.4%fgs.
Probable Bulldog Lineup: F Charles Rhodes JR 6-8 245, 15.9ppg, 56%fgs, 7.1rpg, 13 blks; C Jarvis Varnado SO 6-9 210, 4.9ppg, 7.8rpg, 31 blks; G/F Jamont Gordon JR 6-4 230, 18.4ppg, 6.0rpg, 14 3ptrs, 3.8apg; G Ben Hansbrough SO 6-3 205, 10.0ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.8apg, 15 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart SO 6-2 170, 10.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 2.8apg, 13 3ptrs.
Top Reserves: C/F Brian Johnson JR 6-9 245, 4.3ppg, 2.9rpg; G Phil Turner rFR 6-3 170, 2.5ppg, 1.9rpg; G Riley Benock, FR 6-4 180, 2.6ppg, 5 3ptrs.
How They Compare:
Points Per Game: MSU 72.8ppg, UM 74.1ppg
Points Allowed: MSU 62.8ppg, UM 58.5ppg
Field Goal Shooting: MSU 46.4%, UM 43.5%
Shooting Defense: MSU 37.5%, UM 36.2%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 33.5%, UM 44.7%
3-Pointers Attempted: MSU 19.8pg, UM 16.5pg
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 66.9%, UM 69.7%
Free Throw Attempts: MSU 18.9pg, UM 25.1pg
Rebounding: MSU 41.2rpg, UM 42.9rpg
Rebound Margin: MSU +7.6, UM 6.9
Blocked Shots: MSU 7.3pg, UM 5.4pg
Assists Average: MSU 12.6pg, UM 14.1pg
Turnover Margin: MSU –2.2, UM –0.2
Steals Average: MSU 6.8pg, UM 5.6pg
The Series: There have been just three meetings of the programs with Mississippi State winning twice; in 1958 on a neutral court in Birmingham, and last December 11 in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes took a 1991 contest with State in the consolation round of the Eastern Airlines Classic played in West Palm Beach. Rick Stansbury is 1-0 against Miami, and Frank Haith 0-1 against State.
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. With 25 points in the last game, Gordon hurdled two more spots in the career scoring list to 23rd with 1,121 in 73 games. On the same day he passed Red Stroud (1,116, 1961-63) and Tyrone Washington (1,119, 1996-99), and he's a single basket behind #22 Greg Carter (1988-91).
*Meanwhile senior F/C Charles Rhodes is still in 29th place in MSU career points with 1,040 in 87 games. He's two points behind Greg Lockhart (1986-89) going into this game.
*Rhodes and Gordon also became the 17th and 18th Bulldogs to notch 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for their careers. Rhodes now has 506 boards, Gordon 501. It will take 564 rebounds to move into the MSU career top-25.
*Gordon has scored double-digits every game this season, and in 65 of his 73 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 15 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 has made 296 career free throws and is tied with Stroud for 9th on the MSU list. His 431 attempts rank 9th alone.
*Gordon began this junior season standing ninth on the MSU career assists list. After seven games he has moved up to 7th with 346, having just passed Butch Pierre (342, 1981-84). Five more assists catches Detrick White (351, 1998-99).
*Gordon has started every game of his college career.
*Gordon and Rhodes both have had a 25-point game this season; Gordon last Saturday against Southeastern Louisiana and Rhodes against Miami Oh.
*Rhodes failed to extend a two-game streak of 20-point games in the SELa contest. He had seven 20-point outings as a junior.
*Rhodes has 13 blocks this year, and 114 for his career to rank 6th all-time. He's three in back of Wiley Peck (117, 1976-79).
*This season Rhodes is a bit under his career shooting accuracy rate of almost 56%. But take away a 3-of-14 night against UC-Irvine, and the senior has hit almost 63% from the floor this year. Rhodes still ranks 10th in career shooting.
*Rhodes has shot 53% in MSU's five victories against skewed by the UCI stats. Yet in the team's three losses he has shot 63%!
*Rhodes got off to a tough start at the foul line, going 5-of-13 in the first three games. Since then he's been a far more accurate 16-of-19 at the stripe.
*Sophomore G Barry Stewart re-wrote the MSU freshman record with 68 three-point goals. And it was in the eighth game of the year, against Miami, that he sacked a season-best five treys, on 11 tries. Now in game-eight as a sophomore he gets to play…Miami.
*This season Stewart is 7-of-23 shooting from the home-court arc, 30%; on neutral courts he is 6-of-15, 40%.
*Starting has allowed Stewart to show more passing skills, averaging 2.8 assists so far this year compared to 1.2 as a freshman backup.
*Sophomore G Ben Hansbrough is the team leader in treys, though, with 15. Hansbrough is the only Bulldog to make at least one threeball every game. Starters Gordon, Hansbrough, and Stewart have 42 of the team's 53 made treys.
*Gordon has 83 career treys in three years; Stewart has 81 in two years and Hansbrough 62. 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 31 blocks in eight games, or almost four-per, and he hasn't failed to swat at least two shots each game.
*In just 43 career games Varnado is up to 98 blocks, placing him seventh on the MSU all-time list, right behind Rhodes.
*State's best four games shooting free throws have been their last four games; 66.7%, 69.2%, 78.3%, and 68.4%. In their first four games, the Bulldogs were a combined 63%.
*Guards Stewart and Hansbrough are a combined 32-of-36, or 89%, at the foul stripe. Yet neither have attempted enough free throws to rank in the current SEC rankings.
*By contrast, starting and backup centers Varnado and Elgin Bailey are a combined 4-of-18 shooting free throws.
*Mississippi State has more blocked shots (58) than steals (54).
*Stansbury teams are 58-10 in December games.