STARKVILLE, Miss. - Back in the Top 25 for the second time this season, the 25th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs (20-8, 11-3) close out the road portion of their SEC regular-season schedule by heading to Nashville to take on the 16th-ranked Commodores of Vanderbilt University (24-5, 9-5) Wednesday evening. Tip-off time for the non-televised contest is set for 7 p.m. at VU's 14,316-seat Memorial Gymnasium.
Wednesday's 113th all-time series renewal between MState and Vandy can be heard on XM Satellite Radio Channel 201 and SIRIUS Channel 153.
Winners of six of their last seven decisions, including a current three-game winning streak, coach Rick Stansbury's 20-8 Bulldogs most recently clinched their fourth SEC Western Division title in the last six seasons and notched their seventh 20-win campaign of the past decade with Saturday's 68-59 road triumph over the Florida Gators. Currently ranked 25th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll for the second time this season, MSU owns a 5-2 mark in SEC road contests on the year. Having established a new single-season school standard for blocks for the second straight season (228 this season after 222 last year) and chasing Kentucky's current SEC season record of 240 rejects set in 1997-98, MSU enters the final week of the regular season still ranked second nationally in blocks this season behind Connecticut (8.83 to 8.14 bpg). The Bulldogs also remain second among the NCAA team leaders behind Georgetown in field-goal percentage defense (.367 to .362) after having limited 10 of their 14 league opponents to less than 40-percent shooting from the field on the year.
Mississippi State continues to be powered by the veteran all-SEC tandem of junior Jamont Gordon (17.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg & 4.8 apg) and senior Charles Rhodes (16.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, & 56% FGs), who combine to average better than 33 points and 13 rebounds per game between them on the year. The current SEC Player of the Week, Rhodes is averaging 19.2 points over his last 10 contests, including a career-high 30 points in last Wednesday's home win over Auburn. Steady sophomore guards Barry Stewart and Ben Hansbrough follow at 12.0 and 10.5 points per game, respectively.
Ranked 16th nationally in both polls this week, Vanderbilt sports a 24-5 overall record and stands third in the SEC East race with a 9-5 conference mark after having its seven-game winning streak snapped this past Saturday in Fayetteville with a 78-73 setback at Arkansas. Guided by ninth-year head coach Kevin Stallings and winners of 31 of their last 32 home games (18-0 at home this season), the Commodores are led by the talented senior/freshman duo of veteran Shan Foster (19.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 113 treys & 47% 3FGs) and rookie A.J. Ogilvy (16.8 rpg, 6.7 rpg, 59% FGs & 78% FTs).
The Bulldogs have won six of the last eight meetings with the Commodores, including last year's 83-70 home win over VU in Starkville. MState has knocked off Vandy at Memorial Gym twice in the team's last three visits to Nashville (72-69 in 2003-04 and 66-43 in 2001-02).
Mississippi State returns home for its regular-season finale by playing host to the LSU Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is slated for 3 p.m. at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum, and the contest will be regionally televised by Raycom Sports. Prior to Saturday's MSU-LSU hardwood battle, senior Bulldog players Charles Rhodes and Billy Begley, along with senior manager Lan Ingram, will be honored during pre-game ‘Senior Day' activities.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Kelsey Nurnberg and Elizabeth Woolven combined for a three-hit shutout, and Courtney Bures collected a pair of hits and drove in a run as the 18th-ranked Mississippi State softball team defeated UAB Tuesday night in near-freezing temperatures at the MSU Softball Field.
The Bulldogs, who stayed at No. 18 in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll and dropped one place to 19th in the newest USA Today/NFCA ranking, moved to 17-4 on the year with the victory. The Blazers fell to 13-10 overall.
Nurnberg allowed a hit and struck out five over four innings to improve to 9-2 overall. Woolven, a Nettleton, Miss., native, picked up her second save of the year as she scattered a pair of hits and struck out three over the final three innings.
In addition to Bures' continued solid hitting, sophomore Chelsea Bramlett scored twice as she went 1-for-3 on the night. Bramlett got the Bulldog offense going as she led off the game with a single and scored in the first inning. State scored the leadoff batter the first four innings of the contest en route to building a 4-0 advantage.
After reaching on a single to center field in the first, Bramlett stole second and third and scored as Blazer catcher Andrea Rogers' throw was deflected into left field. The Bulldogs expanded the lead to 2-0 in the second as freshman Ali Bainbridge walked and stole second. After moving to third on a Hayle Guess ground-out, the Vestavia Hills, Ala., native scored on Brittany Bell's one-out single to shortstop.
Nakita Boyce kicked off the third inning for MState with a base hit up the middle. The senior advanced to second on Bures' ground-out to second, and after moving to third on a passed ball, she scored on Sammie Jo Bailey's ground-out to short. Guess extended the MSU lead to 4-0 in the fourth as she walked and stole second. After taking third on a passed ball, Gina McCloud scored Guess with a base hit up the middle.
"We had great pitching again today from Kelsey and Elizabeth," MSU head coach Jay Miller, who earned his 900th career win last weekend, said. "Kelsey came out strong, and Elizabeth did a nice job of shutting them down the rest of the way. We talked this week about scoring every inning, and our offense did a nice job throughout the order. Gina McCloud came up with a big hit and a walk for us today. It was a solid win for us today. With the cold weather, I thought our team did a nice job of coming out and fighting and not letting the conditions take us out of our game."
Despite having all the offense the defense would need, the Bulldogs tacked on three more in the home half of the sixth. Freshman Jessie Spain led off with a single but was put-out on Brittany Bell's fielder's choice to short. Bell stole second and advanced to third on an illegal pitch. Bramlett followed with a walk, and after stealing second, she moved to third on a wild pitch while Bell scored.
Following a walk to pinch-hitter Megan Bateman, Bures made it a 6-0 game with her run-scoring single that scored Bramlett. Two hitters later, Bainbridge capped the State scoring with a line drive into center field that plated Bateman with the game's final run.
Jennifer Nelson (7-7) took the loss for UAB as she allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits with six strikeouts. Kayla Harris pitched the final inning, surrendering the three runs on three hits.
The Bulldogs stay at home this weekend, hosting Austin Peay, Louisiana Tech and Charleston Southern in the 2008 Bulldog Classic Mar. 7-9. Games begin daily at 10 a.m., while the Bulldogs will play each day at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Tickets are now on sale for Mississippi State's April 17 exhibition game with the United States National Team that will be played at Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland, Miss.
Ticket prices are $12 for advance purchases and $15 at the gate. Fans wishing to purchase tickets prior to the Apr. 17 stop on the "Bound 4 Beijing Tour" can do so at www.active.com or www.usasoftball.com. Tickets can be picked up at the Freedom Ridge Park will-call office on game day.
The showdown with MSU marks the U.S. squad's only in-state appearance prior to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, where it will be vying for a fourth straight softball gold medal.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The ninth-seeded Mississippi State women's basketball team (16-13, 4-10 Southeastern Conference) opens play in the 2008 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament against archrival and eighth seed Mississippi (12-15, 6-8 SEC) Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. Tipoff between the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Rebels is scheduled for 12 CT at the Sommet Center, and will be televised by Fox Sports Network regionally in the southeast.
The matchup between Mississippi State and Mississippi marks the third time the two teams have met this season. The Lady Bulldogs took the first meeting 57-52 in Starkville earlier in the year while the Lady Rebels won in Oxford 73-65 nearly three weeks ago. Mississippi State and Mississippi last played at the SEC Women's Tournament in 2000. The Lady Bulldogs won that first round matchup 75-59.
The Sharon Fanning-led Lady Bulldogs enter the matchup with UM coming off a hard-fought 64-49 loss to sixth-ranked LSU on Sunday. During that contest, MSU came back from an early deficit to tie the game at 42 with more than 10 minutes remaining but was unable to hold off the Lady Tigers.
On the year, MSU is led by sophomore guard Alexis Rack. The three-point specialist leads the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game, while shooting nearly 33 percent from behind the arc. The Lady Bulldogs are paced on the boards by sophomore forward Tysheka Grimes, who is averaging 6.4 rebounds per game. Lead by first year head coach Renee Ladner Ole Miss is coming off a 72-66 home loss to the Florida Gators in Sunday. The Lady Rebels saw a 17-point halftime lead slip away in a 66-72 setback against Florida.
Mississippi is led by junior center Shawn Goff. The Tallahassee, Fla.,-native leads the team with 13.5 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. Senior forward Carla Bartee leads the team with 8.2 rebounds and had 15 rebounds against the Lady Bulldogs in the first meeting.
The Mississippi State Bulldogs will look for their first first round win in the SEC Women's Tournament since 2004 when they beat Arkansas, 79-74. MState is looking to improve to 2-2 all-time in SEC Tournament games played in the Music City.
The winner of the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Rebels faces top seed LSU (25-5, 14-0 SEC) at noon CT on Friday in Nashville.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State freshman Mary Kathryn Govero (Clinton, Miss.) was named to the 2008 Southeastern Conference all-Freshman team today as announced by the league office in Birmingham. The team was decided by a vote among the league's coaches.
Govero has seen action in all 29 games this season, starting three of those. MState's top player from the bench, Govero is averaging 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. A mid-range shooter, she has scored in double figures in nine games this season and had a double-double in 18 minutes played with 12 points and 11 rebounds at Belmont.