News from MSU Media Relations--March 12

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

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 39th-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team will open a two-match road swing in Nevada Wednesday, taking on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Match time is set for 4 p.m. CT at UNLV's Fertitta Tennis Complex.

The Bulldogs (5-5), are coming off a 4-3 win over Auburn this past weekend at home. In that match, State swept the doubles point and won three of the first four singles matches. MSU has two players ranked in the nation's top-35 including 26th-ranked Ivan Bjelica and 32nd-ranked Philippe Frayssinoux. Junior Ryan Farlow currently leads the team with six dual match victories while Bjelica and freshman Antonio Lastre are second with five.

UNLV is 5-4 overall this season. The Rebels are led by 93rd-ranked junior Elliot Wronski and sophomore Luca Barlocchi. Wronski is 7-2 in dual matches this season playing at the #1 position while Barlocchi is 6-1. Led by fifth-year head coach Owen Hambrook, the Rebels are the defending Mountain West Conference Tournament Champions.

There have only been two meetings between the two programs since 1969 with each team earning a win. Last season in Las Vegas, UNLV rallied to defeat the Bulldogs 4-3.

"Coming off a big win on Sunday, we hope we can continue to play good tennis this week," said MSU head coach Per Nilsson. "UNLV is a good team and we have to be ready to go if we want to win."

Following Wednesday's match, State will travel to Reno, Nev., to face the University of Nevada on Saturday. That match is scheduled for a 3 p.m. CT start.


Softball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Twenty-five Mississippi State regular-season softball games, along with any SEC and NCAA postseason appearances, emphasize the WMSV 91.1 FM softball broadcast schedule.

The schedule includes 24 games of State's Southeastern Conference schedule, including complete series sets against LSU, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas. The schedule will begin with MSU's SEC-opening three-game set at Auburn and will conclude with every potential Mississippi State game in the 2007 SEC Tournament in Baton Rouge, La., as well as possible appearances by the Bulldogs in the NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals and the NCAA Women's College World Series.

The broadcast schedule will be aired by Starkville's WMSV 91.1, the official campus radio station of Mississippi State University. Live streaming audio of all WMSV programming is also available for listeners via a live audio link on WMSV's web site, www.wmsv.msstate.edu. RealPlayer is required to listen to WMSV's audio stream. Broadcasting veteran Anthony Craven will handle the play-by-play duties.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 18th-ranked Mississippi State softball teams opens the Southeastern Conference portion of its schedule Tuesday, traveling to Auburn for a three-game set at Jane B. Moore Field on the AU campus.

The Bulldogs and Tigers, who are opening SEC play against each other for the first time ever, will play a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The two teams conclude the series Wednesday in a game slated for a 4 p.m. first pitch.

Tuesday's doubleheader also marks the first of State's 25-game radio broadcast schedule. WMSV 91.1, MSU's campus radio station, will carry Tuesday's second game and Wednesday's series finale. Fans outside the broadcast area can listen to the games online at www.wmsv.msstate.edu.

State returns to the road after a successful five-game home stand in which the Bulldogs (21-4) defeated UAB before claiming the Bulldog Classic title with a 4-0 mark.

MSU played stellar defense again this past weekend as it moved its fielding percentage to an SEC second-best .978 clip. MState also ranks second in chances and assists while holding the third-most putouts and the most double plays in the conference.

State's pitching staff looks to continue its solid start to the season as well. The Bulldog hurlers hold the league's fifth-best ERA (1.41) and the second-most wins (21). The Bulldogs and Tigers are tied for the second-most saves in the conference with nine each.

Kelsey Nurnberg aims to build on her solid pitching performance from the weekend. The Ankeny, Iowa, native picked up four wins last week to run her record to a career-best 12-2 and earn Bulldog Classic co-MVP accolades. Nurnberg holds a 1.58 ERA, and she has struck out 53 batters, which is just two off her rookie season total.

Sophomore Chelsea Bramlett earned MVP accolades as well after hitting .500, scoring eight runs, driving in another and going a perfect 8-for-8 on stolen bases. Bramlett continues to lead the Bulldogs at the plate, hitting a league second-best .466 (41-for-88) with 17 RBI and 23 runs scored. The Cordova, Tenn., native hit her third triple of the year in Sunday's win over Louisiana Tech, tying her with teammate Hayle Guess for the SEC lead.

Bramlett enters the first conference outing second in the SEC with a perfect 23-for-23 on stolen bases. Her consecutive steals mark rates as the fourth-best in MSU softball history.

Auburn enters the weekend with a 20-3 record after a 5-0 week that included winning the War Eagle Classic. AU has been paced at the plate by Taryn Gray, who is hitting .362 with a team-best 13 runs. She rates second on the squad in doubles (4) and third in RBI (11). Jorja Bell tops the squad with four home runs, and Tatiana Fernandez, a .291 hitter, has driven in a team-leading 14 runs on the year.

In the circle, four players have shared the pitching duties thus far in the season. Anna Thompson has compiled an 8-2 record and 1.39 ERA on the season, while Brittany Day holds a 4-1 mark and 1.33 average. Lauren Schmalz and Angel Bunner are both off to 4-0 starts with 0.48 and 0.88 earned-run averages, respectively.

AUBURN, Ala. - Jessie Bailey's two-run home run in the sixth inning of game one lifted No. 15 Mississippi State to an 8-3 victory in its SEC opener, but a split for the doubleheader as AU got a walk-off home run in the ninth inning for a 5-4 win to force a rubber game Wednesday at Jane B. Moore Field.

The Bulldogs stand at 22-5 on the season, while Auburn moved to 21-4.

"We came out nice and got some runs in the opener," Jay Miller, MSU head coach, said. "We had some opportunities in the second game but couldn't get the runs across. They came back strong, and we have to hold that lead. We have to bounce back and get a big SEC road series win tomorrow."

Freshman Ali Bainbridge had an outstanding conference opener, going 4-for-8 with three RBI and two runs scored. Chelsea Bramlett continued her solid hitting, going 3-for-4 and scoring two of MSU's eight runs. MSU plated five of its eight runs in the game with two outs, including the deciding runs in the sixth.

With one out in the inning, Courtney Bures singled off the wall in right center field. Following a Sammie Jo Bailey pop-out, Jessie Bailey launched her first home run of the season, a two-run shot over the wall in left field, to give MSU its second lead at 5-3.

Misty Flesher, making her first SEC appearance, made the lead hold up, allowing three runs on nine hits with four strikeouts over six and a third innings to move to 7-2 on the year. Elizabeth Woolven picked up her third save of the year, tossing a perfect final two-thirds of the game.

After a Jorja Bell three-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the fourth put Auburn on top 3-2, the Bulldogs tied the game the next half inning. After a pair of strikeouts, Bramlett singled to second base and stole second. She scored the tying run on Ali Bainbridge's ground ball to short that was booted by Kyndall White.

After taking the lead with Jessie Bailey's sixth-inning home run, MState expanded the advantage with three runs in the top of the seventh. Nakita Boyce led off with a single through the left side and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Bramlett then beat out a bunt single to third base to put runners at the corners. Bainbridge scored both as she singled up the middle and advanced to second on a throwing error by the AU catcher. Following a Guess pop-out for the second out of the inning, Bures singled up the middle and scored Bainbridge to put State on top 8-3.

MSU got on the scoreboard first with a pair of runs in the third inning. With one out, Boyce walked and stole second with two away. Bainbridge scored her as she dropped a double into right field. Guess followed with a single to left field that scored Bainbridge from second base.

In the nightcap, State struck first with two runs for the second straight game. With one out in the second inning, Sammie Jo Bailey hit a ground ball to short that deflected off White and allowed Bailey to reach second base. She scored two hitters later as Jessie Spain belted her first career triple, a shot off the wall in left field. Brittany Bell scored Spain as she hit a hard ground ball that a diving Cassie Trosclair at second base couldn't corral.

MSU added two more critical runs in the sixth to extend its lead to 4-0. Bures led off the frame with her third home run of the season, a solo shot well over the wall in left field. Sammie Jo Bailey followed with a double to right center, and pinch-runner Lindsay Hunley advanced to third before scoring on a wild pitch.

AU started a furious rally with a run in the sixth and three runs in the seventh to send the game to extra innings. With one out, Myesha Finney and Taryn Gray singled. Tatiana Fernandez then hit a line drive to left field that Boyce misplayed to allow Finney to make it a 4-1 game.

The Tigers kicked off the seventh as Krista Clyde hit a lead-off home run just inside the foul pole in left field. After a ground-out, Jessica Martin was hit by a pitch. Following a ground-out, Finney delivered a double that scored pinch-runner Cassie Trosclair to cut the lead to 4-3. AU leading hitter Taryn Gray delivered her third hit of the game, a base hit through the left side that scored Finney with the tying run.

After sending the game to the ninth inning, White delivered the final blow as she blasted a walk-off shot over the wall in left field.

Misty Flesher took the loss in the finale, giving up the run on two hits in and inning and a third to fall to 7-3 on the season. Brittany Day earned the win for the Tigers, tossing a hitless final four innings with four strikeouts and a walk.

The series finale is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch.


Women's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's Lady Bulldog tennis team travels to Gulf Shores, Ala. on Wednesday, March 12, to meet up with 74th-ranked Eastern Illinois. The match with the Panthers is set for 11 a.m. CT.

MSU enters this week's action with a 5-5 overall record. MSU dropped their two Southeastern Conference matches last week with setbacks to Alabama (4-3) and 41st-ranked Auburn (5-2) on the road.

The match versus Eastern Illinois will serve as the first-ever meeting between the two schools. MSU women's tennis is 5-2 all-time against schools from Illinois (Illinois 1-0, S. Illinois 1-1, Southern Ill.-Edwardsville 4-1).

"This is a good break from conference play," said head coach Tracy Lane. "We are looking forward to getting some big non-conference wins. Eastern Illinois is a good team and this match is going to be a good test for us."

Following Wednesday's action, the Lady Bulldogs will continue their neutral site action in Mobile, Ala., where they will play Indiana State at 11 a.m. this Saturday, March 15.


Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State University junior guard/forward Jamont Gordon has been selected as one of 24 student-athletes named to the official voting ballot for the 2008 John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year. The announcement was made Monday at The Los Angeles Athletic Club by John R. Wooden Award Chairman Richard "Duke" Llewellyn.

Gordon, who was also recently named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) All-District 6 First Team, enters postseason play ranked fifth in the SEC in scoring (17.5 ppg), third in assists (4.77 apg) and tied for 14th in rebounds (6.3 rpg). Coming off back-to-back efforts of 24 points at Vanderbilt last Wednesday and 23 points in Saturday's home win over LSU, he also stands tied for third in the league with 14 outings of 20 or more points on the year. In conference games only for the season, the Nashville product ranks seventh in scoring (17.5 ppg), third in assists (4.94 apg) and 15th in rebounding (6.3 rpg).

During his 95-game MSU career for coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs, Gordon enters this week's SEC Tournament ranked eighth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,499 career points, in addition to standing third with 459 career assists and 15th with 643 career rebounds. With career averages of 15.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists, Gordon presently rates as the nation's lone active non-senior Division I player to have totaled 1,400 career points, 600 career rebounds and 400 career assists. This season, he joins UT Martin's Lester Hudson as the lone two Division I men's basketball players to currently average 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists an outing on the season.

Joining Gordon from the Southeastern Conference on the official ballot of this year's Wooden Award Top 24 candidate listing are Shan Foster of Vanderbilt and the Tennessee tandem of Chris Lofton and Tyler Smith. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Gordon becomes the first Mississippi State player included on the Wooden Award official ballot since Lawrence Roberts made the ballot as a senior in 2004-05 after having previously been selected to the 2003-04 Wooden Award All-American First Team in his first season with the Bulldogs.

The 2008 Wooden Award ceremony, which will include the presentation of the Men's and Women's Wooden Award winners, the Wooden Award All-American Teams, and the Legends of Coaching Award to Tennessee's Pat Summitt, will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club the weekend of April 11-12. The top five male and female finalists will be invited to Los Angeles for the awards ceremony and will receive a contribution from The Los Angeles Athletic Club for their university's general scholarship fund.

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. It is bestowed upon the nation's best player at an institution of higher learning who has proven to his or her university that he or she is making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 grade point average. Last year's recipients were Kevin Durant of Texas and Tennessee's Candace Parker.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's veteran tandem of Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes have been selected All-SEC First Team by a vote of the league's head men's basketball coaches. In addition, Bulldog sophomore center Jarvis Varnado has been unanimously tabbed the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year. The honors were announced Tuesday by the Southeastern Conference office headquartered in Birmingham.

Gordon, a junior from Nashville, and Rhodes, a senior from Jackson, enter this week's SEC Tournament ranked fifth and seventh among the league's leading scorers at 17.5 and 16.8 points per game, respectively. In conference games only, Rhodes (17.7 ppg; 6th) and Gordon (17.5 rpg; 7th) hail as the No. 2 scoring tandem in the league at a combined 35.2 points per SEC outing behind the LSU duo of Marcus Thornton (21.6 ppg) and Anthony Randolph (16.7 ppg) at 38.3 points per league game. The Bulldog veterans also rate as the school's most potent scoring duo since former MSU All-American and NBA standout guard Jeff Malone (26.8 ppg) and Terry Lewis (15.2 ppg) combined to average 42.0 points per contest in 1982-83.

Gordon and Rhodes become the first State tandem since Lawrence Roberts and Timmy Bowers from MSU's 2003-04 SEC championship team to earn first-team, all-league honors in the same season. Prior to that, current Dallas Mavericks center Erick Dampier and Darryl Wilson accomplished the feat during MSU's 1995-96 Final Four campaign.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Gordon begins postseason play ranked fifth in the SEC in scoring, third in assists (4.77 apg) and tied for 14th in rebounds (6.3 rpg) for all games. Joining SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster of Vanderbilt as one of only two unanimous first-team selections on this year's squad, Gordon has also recently been selected as one of 24 student-athletes named to the official voting ballot for the 2008 John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year. In addition, the Bob Cousy Award national finalist has been named to the NABC All-District 6 First Team and to Rivals.com's All-SEC First Team.

A product of Jackson's Lanier High School, Rhodes has earned first-team status after collecting second-team, all-league laurels each of the previous two seasons for coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs. The 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward begins postseason tournament action ranked seventh in the SEC in scoring, sixth in both rebounding (7.7 rpg) and field-goal percentage (.560), and 10th in blocks (1.33 bpg). Last week's SEC Player of the Week, Rhodes ranks tied for third in the conference with nine double-doubles, including recent double-double efforts against LSU (27/10) and Vanderbilt (22/14) to close out the regular season.

Having led the nation in blocked shots (4.80 bpg) for a majority of the season, Varnado has established a new single-season school standard with 144 blocks this season and begins postseason action needing 13 swats to match Shaquille O'Neal's current SEC all-time season mark of 157 rejects set at LSU in 1991-92. The unanimous choice by the league's head coaches as this year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Varnado has been credited with five or more blocks on 16 occasions this season, including 10-block contests versus Kentucky, Georgia and Miami (Fla.). Along with owning more blocked shots on the season than nine SEC teams, the 6-foot-9, 210-pound defensive stalwart is also currently averaging 7.8 points and ranks as the league's fifth-leading rebounder (7.9 rpg). The Brownsville, Tenn., native already ranks second on the school's all-time blocks list behind Dampier (249 blocks) with 211 career rejects.


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