News from MSU Media Relations--February 21

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Women's Basketball, Softball, Baseball and Football.

Women's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State women's basketball team (15-11, 3-8 Southeastern Conference) travels to the Palmetto State Thursday evening, facing the University of South Carolina Gamecocks (13-12, 2-8 SEC). Tipoff from Columbia's Colonial Center is set for 6 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast locally on WFCA 107.9 FM with Bart Gregory calling the action.

Mississippi State leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 12-9. The Gamecocks hold a 7-3 advantage in games played in Columbia. South Carolina leads the last five meetings, 3-2. In the last five games played in Columbia, MState is 1-4. MSU last won at USC on January 6, 2005 (55-48).

South Carolina enters Thursday's game at 13-12 on the year and 2-8 in league play. USC has won two out of its last four, both those games coming on the Gamecocks' home floor. Freshman guard Jordan Jones leads the team in scoring with 12.2 points per game and is one of the nation's best three-point shooters. Demetress Adams leads the team in rebounding with 9 rebounds per game.

Led in scoring by sophomore duo Alexis Rack and Tysheka Grimes, Mississippi State is seeking its first conference road win this year. Junior guard Marneshia Richard recently eclipsed the 120-assist mark of the season, a junior class record. Richard is 47th in the country in assists per game, while Rack is 24th in three-point field goals made per game.

State is again without the services of sophomore Bethany Washington, out indefinitely after an ankle injury in the game against Mississippi on Feb. 14.

On Sunday, two free-throws by Georgia guard Ashley Houts with one second remaining sealed the victory for UGA as the Athens-based Lady Bulldogs took a 60-56 win over Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum. MState was led by junior guard Marneshia Richard's 15 points. Highlighted by 10 lead changes and 14 ties, MState tied the game at 56 with a pair of free-throws from senior Imesia Jackson with 1:47 remaining in regulation. In addition to Richard's 15, sophomore forward Grimes hit 7-of-8 free throws and brought down six rebounds and took the ball away a career-high five steals.

Following Thursday's game, MState continues its road play at third-ranked Tennessee. Tipoff for the FSN South televised contest is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT from Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.


Softball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Senior shortstop Courtney Bures, sophomore catcher Chelsea Bramlett and senior outfielder Hayle Guess have been named to the Preseason All-SEC Softball Team, as voted on by the league coaches.

Bures and Bramlett earned first team infielder and catcher spots, respectively, while Guess was selected to the second team outfield on the first ever list compiled for the sport.

"This award shows just how much respect coaches around the SEC have for these three players," MSU head coach Jay Miller said. "Coaches in the league realize the quality of athletes we have here at Mississippi State, and this is a great honor for Courtney, Chelsea and Hayle as we get ready to start the SEC season."

Bramlett has hit .605, including a grand slam, in leading the Bulldogs to a school second-best 11-0 start. She also paces the squad with two triples, 12 runs, 10 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 10 attempts. Bures, who leaped her average to .281 after a stellar Bulldog Round-Robin, holds the team lead with two home runs and three doubles. The Haymarket, Va., native and recent draftee of National Pro Fastpitch's Washington Glory has seven RBI and nine runs to go along with four stolen bases. Guess is hitting .250 with a home run, eight RBI, eight runs and three stolen bases. The Moss Point, Miss., native kept MState's undefeated streak alive with her game-winning, seventh-inning base hit in Sunday's win over Southern Illinois.

Bures has earned all-SEC accolades twice in her career, while Bramlett and Guess both claimed second team honors a year ago. Bramlett, a native of Cordova, Tenn., was named the league's Freshman of the Year in 2007.

State, who returns to action this weekend at the Mercer Wingate Inn Classic, matched Florida for the third-most first team selections. The trio of Bulldogs tied MSU with the Gators and Tennessee for the third most overall recipients behind Alabama and LSU.


Baseball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State hits the road to open its 2008 baseball season this weekend, venturing to Jacksonville, Fla., for a three-game weekend series against the University of North Florida Ospreys. Friday's 4 p.m. (CT) game, the first baseball meeting between MSU and UNF, will be played at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, the home of the Class AA Southern League Jacksonville Suns. The Saturday and Sunday contests, both with 12 p.m. (CT) starts, will be played at Harmon Field on the North Florida campus.

The Bulldogs, ranked as high as 19th (Rivals.com) in the preseason national polls, return 20 lettermen, including four position player starters, and nine of the 12 pitchers that took the mound for MSU's 2007 NCAA College World Series team. Among the returning players are sophomore second baseman Brandon Turner, a pre-season All-American whose .399 freshman year batting average was the second-highest in the SEC, and junior relief ace Aaron Weatherford, a candidate for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award.

The radio broadcast of all three games will be carried on WFCA-FM in French Camp, Miss., the flagship station of MSU athletics. Sunday's game will also be available on the internet an on-demand basis ($5.99) by A-Sun TV, the broadband network of the Atlantic Sun Conference (www.asun.tv).

Senior lefthander Justin Pigott (2007: 7-7, 4.41), the 2007 MSU Pitching MVP and the MVP of the 2007 NCAA Tallahassee Regional, will open on the hill for State Friday. The Picayune, Miss., product paced the MSU pitching staff with 76 strikeouts and 113-2/3 innings pitched. Junior Chad Crosswhite (2007: 8-5, 4.69), MSU's other returning weekend rotation starter, will draw the start in Saturday's game. Sophomore righty Ricky Bowen (5-2, 5 saves, 3.00), who posted the staff's best earned run average last year in 27 relief appearances, will make his debut as a starter in Sunday's series finale.

State is making its first season-opener away from Dudy Noble Field since launching its 2000 season in the Coca Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala.

The series matches two of college baseball's most successful coaching veterans who have combined for 2,480 career coaching victories. Mississippi State skipper Ron Polk launches his 29th season as MSU head coach this weekend and his 35th as a collegiate head coach overall. His 1,350 career coaching wins stands fifth among current and seventh among all-time NCAA Division I coaches. UNF is coached by Dusty Rhodes, set to begin his 21st season as head coach at North Florida. Rhodes has logged 1,130 career wins in 28 seasons as a head baseball coach.

Mississippi State opens its 31-game home schedule and a season-longest 14-game home stand Tuesday, February 26 when the Bulldogs host the UAB Blazers in a 4 p.m. game at Dudy Noble Field.


Football
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head football coach Sylvester Croom will be featured during three segments of the ESPN documentary "Say It Loud," Sunday, Feb. 24, at 1 p.m. CT, on ESPN and ESPN HD.

Croom will be a central theme of the college football presentation on ESPN's Black History Month celebration.


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