News from MSU Media Relations--February 20

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball, Women's Tennis, Men's Golf, Track & Field, Women's Golf and Men's Basketball.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team received its highest ranking in program history Tuesday as it climbed to No. 15 in both the USA Today/NFCA and the Softball top 25 polls.

State, which is off to a school second-best 11-0 start, jumped seven spots from 22nd in the NFCA rankings and six slots from No. 21 in the latest USA Softball poll.

"These rankings are a testament to this team's start to the season," MState head coach Jay Miller said. "They have played extremely well and it's nice for that to be recognized for that, but we want to be ranked in that final poll of the season. We strive to improve each week, and that is something this team has done so far and is continuing to do."

The No. 15 rating in the NFCA poll is the best for an MSU squad since the 2000 contingent rose to No. 19 on Mar. 29. The Bulldogs' highest ranking in the USA Softball poll came in 2006 when the team climbed to No. 22 after opening the year with a program-best 16-straight wins.

MSU travels to Macon, Ga., this weekend for the Mercer Wingate Inn Classic. The Bulldogs open the three-day tournament with Western Kentucky, who is receiving votes in both polls. San Diego State, who was handed its only loss by the Bulldogs on Feb. 9, debuted in the USA Softball poll at No. 25.

Women's Tennis
STARKVILE, Miss. - The Mississippi State's women's tennis team defeated Southeastern Louisiana T at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre to claim its fourth victory of the 2008 season. The Bulldogs are now 4-0 on the season; their best start since starting 6-0 in 2005.

"This was a very good win for us," said head coach Tracy Lane. "Our girls played with a lot of heart and a lot of emotion today. We look forward to playing at this level for the remainder of the season."

MSU grabbed the doubles point early with strong 8-1 and 8-3 wins at the No. 3 and 1 positions, respectively. At No. 3, State's pairing of Daniela Juskova and Valeriya Makarycheva downed SLU's tandem of Maja Bradonjic and Breda Kovac. On court #1, MSU's team of Martina Banikova and Elna de Villiers bested Southeastern Louisiana's Emilija Arnaudovska and Iva Velkovska. Mississippi State also won at the No. 2 position with Bulldogs Radka Ferancova and Renee Joseph defeating SLU's Bonnie Phillips and Jana Simurkova 8-3.

In singles, MSU took a 2-0 advantage when DeAndra Saddler promptly defeated Bradonjic 6-1, 6-0. State went up 3-0 when Radka Ferancova provided a 6-2, 6-0 win over Southeastern Louisiana's Kovac at position No. 3.

The match-clincher would come at the No. 5 spot, where Mississippi State's Juskova bested SLU's Phillips 6-3, 6-2. In the other singles matches, MSU's Banikova posted a straight-set win over Arnaudovska 6-3, 6-2 at the No. 1 position while State's de Villiers also defeated Simurkova in straight sets 7-5, 6-3 on court No.5. Mississippi State finished off the sweep of the singles matches with the 67th-ranked Joseph defeating Velkovska in three sets 4-6, 6-2, 1-0(7).

State's next action will come at home this Friday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. against Troy University and then again on Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. against 57th-ranked South Alabama.

Men's Golf
SAN ANTONIO - The Mississippi State men's golf team claimed their first tournament championship since the 2006 fall season Tuesday, winning the Roadrunner Intercollegiate after a three-round score of 864 at the par-71 Oak Hills Country Club.

The Bulldogs had not won a tournament championship since the Callis Communications Intercollegiate in fall 2006, and has now won three tournaments overall in the Clay Homan era.

In round one this week, MState shot an 8-over-par 292 and stood in fifth place. The Bulldogs then rebounded in round two, firing a 275 - the fourth lowest round in school history - and moved into first place. The Bulldogs maintained the top position in round three after notching a 297, beating runner-up Texas Tech by nine strokes.

"We did not play as well today but the wind had a large role in that," said Homan. "We were able to hang in there and we did what we had to do to earn this win."

MSU's Noah Goldman claimed the individual championship of the event after a 1-under-par, three-round score of 212. The Longwood, Fla., native also notched a career-low, one-round score of 64 in round two.

"The second round really helped Noah (Goldman) and helped our team out," said Homan. "Noah was able to hang in there in the third round and pick up the individual title."

Senior Josh Oller tied for fifth after shooting 1-over-par with a 214, including a career-low 68 in round two. Senior Jake Lambert finished 11th with a 5-over-par 218, including a 1-under-par performance in round two. Junior Josh Bevell shot consistent rounds of 75, 74 and 72 for an 8-over-par showing. Junior Matt Fast tallied a 76, 73 and 80 through three rounds for the Bulldogs.

Runner-up Texas Tech finished nine strokes behind MSU with an 873, followed by Oklahoma with an 874. Wichita State tallied a score of 875 followed by Louisiana-Monroe going 29-over-par. Rounding out the field was Sam Houston State, Air Force, DePaul, host Texas-San Antonio, Central Arkansas, Stephen F. Austin State, Illinois State, Texas State, Marshall, Rhode Island, Texas-San Antonio (B-Team) and McNeese State.

MSU will resume competition on March 2 when the Bulldogs will travel to Tallahassee, Fla., to compete in the Seminole Intercollegiate.

Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State University Head Track and Field Coach Al Schmidt has announced the signings of Janeil Bellille and Reyare Thomas of Trinidad, to a national letter-of-intent. Bellille and Thomas will begin their Lady Bulldog careers during the 2008-09 season.

Thomas ran a personal-best 11.78 seconds in the 100-meter dash to capture second place at the 2007 Hampton International Games. The Upper Level Education Institute senior followed up her second-place performance with a personal-best 23.90 in the 200-meter dash, taking first place.

"I am excited to have the opportunity to help these two talented young ladies reach their goals," said assistant coach Bryan Fetzer. "They both have the abilities to be NCAA All-Americans and represent Trinidad on the international level for a long time."

Thomas has represented Trinidad and Tobago at the 2007 Pan American Games, 2007 NACAC Championships and Carifta Games. She will be among the Trinidad and Tobago's hopefuls for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

"I am looking forward to the experience of coming to Mississippi State," said Thomas. "It will be a different atmosphere."

Thomas is the daughter of Veronar Thomas.

Bellille is the current Trinidad and Tobago national junior record holder in the 400-meter hurdles. She is currently ranked sixth on the 2007 IAAF World Junior List. Bellille was named Trinidad and Tobago's Junior Athlete of the Year in 2007 and represented her home country at the 2005 and 2006 Carifta Games, Pan American Games and at the World Youth Championships in 2005. Bellille joins Thomas as another one of Trinidad and Tobago's hopefuls for the 2008 Olympics Games.

Bellille is currently ranked second in both the 400-meter dash and 400-meter hurdles. The Chaguanas Senior Comprehensive senior boosted a personal-best 53.43 in the 400-meter dash at the 2007 Hampton International Games. She also has a personal record of 56.94 in the 400-meter hurdles.

"Janeil is a jewel in this year's signing class, she is ranked sixth in the world in the under 19 age group," said Schmidt. "She has the chance to be an Olympian for her country before she steps on this campus. Janeil has performed on the world stage and will bring that experience into the SEC. Her signing is huge."

The Chaguanas Senior Comprehensive senior boosted a personal-best 53.43 in the 400-meter dash at the 2007 Hampton International Games. She also has a personal record of 56.94 in the 400-meter hurdles.

"It will be a pleasure to come to Mississippi State," said Bellille. "I am looking forward to furthering my studies and continuing my track and field career at Mississippi State. It will also be a great pleasure working with new people."

Bellille is the daughter of Philcon Bellille and Julieta Griffith.

Women's Golf
MIAMI LAKES, Fla. - The Mississippi State women's golf team shot a 305 in the final round of the Qdoba Invitational Tuesday, improving one place to finish in eighth. The Lady Bulldogs ended the three-round tournament held at Don Shula's Golf Club with a 931 team score.

Freshman Mallory Batson notched her first career top-10 finish, shooting a 73 on Tuesday which was good for a ninth-place finish. The Gadsden, Ala., native finished with a 225, which also matched a career best. Freshman Erika Thornton and senior Julia Huh concluded play in a tie for 34th. Thornton fired a 74 in the final round while Huh carded a 77. Junior Jillian Jones tied for 46th with a 238 while Suzanne Stanley finished 62nd with a 255.

"I was very pleased with Mallory's performance during this tournament," said MSU head coach Christi Sanders. "She played very consistent in all three rounds and it is very good to see her finish in the top-10."

East Carolina extended its second round lead and breezed to the team championship. ECU finished the tournament with an 887, 14 strokes ahead of runner-up Louisville. ECU's Abby Bools shot a final-round 71 to finish with a 218 and claim the individual crown.

MSU's next action will come March 14-16 when they travel to Baton Rouge, La., to compete in the LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic.

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - With four of their next five games coming on the road, the SEC West-leading Mississippi State Bulldogs (17-7, 8-2) head to Oxford to take on the Rebels of the University of Mississippi (17-7, 3-7) Wednesday evening on the UM campus. Tip-off time for the 237th all-time series renewal is set for 7 p.m. at 8,700-seat C.M. ‘Tad' Smith Coliseum.

The contest can be seen on a taped delay basis on CSS Wednesday at 9 p.m. CT and will be replayed again on CSS Thursday at 11:30 a.m. CT. The game can also be heard on XM Satellite Radio Channel 200.

Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) is a 24-hour regional sports network serving approximately 5.8 million cable subscribers across 12 southeastern states. Within the state of Mississippi, CSS is available on Comcast in the cities of Corinth, Hattiesburg, Laurel, Meridian, Okolona, Tupelo/Fulton, West Point and Jackson. Bailey Cable carries CSS in Crystal Springs, Hazelhurst, Magee, Mendenhall and Terry, while Vista III airs the network in Oxford.

Owners of a current three-game winning streak and sporting a 12-2 mark over the past two months, coach Rick Stansbury's 17-7 Bulldogs enter the week with a two-game lead in the SEC's Western Division standings over Arkansas with an 8-2 league record after claiming a key 80-74 home triumph over the Razorbacks this past Saturday. With six regular-season games remaining this season, MSU has already matched last year's regular-season totals of 17 overall wins and eight conference victories. MState is 3-1 in league road contests this season, having already posted double-digit road victories over SEC West foes LSU (61-39), Alabama (66-56) and Auburn (83-64).

Statistically as a team, the Bulldogs pace the conference in scoring defense (63.5 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.366; 2nd in NCAA), rebounding (41.1 rpg) and blocks (8.46 bpg; 2nd in NCAA) for all games. In league action, MSU also tops the SEC in field-goal percentage (.473) and ranks second in scoring margin (+7.5 ppg) behind No. 2 Tennessee.

Headed by all-America candidate Jamont Gordon, State presently features four players scoring in double figures on the season. Gordon ranks fifth in the league in scoring (17.7 ppg), tied for third in assists (4.83 apg) and 14th in rebounding (6.4 rpg). Averaging 18.3 points over his last six outings with three double-doubles, all-SEC senior forward Charles Rhodes stands 13th among the league's leading scorers (15.3 ppg) and seventh in rebounding (7.3 rpg). Sophomore guards Barry Stewart and Ben Hansbrough follow at 12.3 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.

Guided by second-year head coach Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss is 17-7 overall and 3-7 in league play after most recently dropping a 90-78 home decision to Auburn this past Saturday. The Rebels are led by the freshman-senior tandem of rookie guard Chris Warren (15.3 ppg, 4.8 apg & 68 made treys) and veteran center Dwayne Curtis (14.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 67% FGs & 12 double-doubles).

With a 133-103 all-time series lead over Mississippi through the years, the Bulldogs have prevailed in 11 of the last 13 hardwood meetings with the Rebels dating back to 2001-02, including last month's 88-68 home triumph over UM. State is looking to complete its first season series sweep over Ole Miss since the 2004-05 campaign.

Gene's Page Top Stories