News from MSU Media Relations--March 13

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

Men's Tennis
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The 39th-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team outlasted Nevada-Las Vegas Wednesday evening, winning a 4-3 decision at the Fertitta Tennis Complex on the UNLV campus. State improved to 6-5 on the season with the win.

"We did not play too well today," said MSU head coach Per Nilsson. "However, I was proud of the way our guys fought and we showed good effort. We have to continue to work hard and get better every time out."

The Bulldogs opened the match edging out the Rebels in a very tight doubles point. Bulldogs Chris Doerr and Tanner Stump edged UNLV's team of Bryan Miller and Andrew Giuffrida 8-6 on court #3. The Bulldogs would clinch the opening point of the match as MSU's duo of Ivan Bjelica and Philippe Frayssinoux edged Rebels Elliot Wronski and Wesley Burrows in a tiebreaker 9-8(6) on court #1. In the remaining match on court #2, MSU's Ryan Farlow and Pjotrs Necajevs fell 9-8(9) in a tiebreaker to UNLV's Luca Barlocchi and David Campbell.

"Antonio did a great job out there today," said Nilsson. "He kept battling and came through for us when we needed him the most."

Frayssinoux, Farlow and Lastre all notched their second straight singles victories on Wednesday. Bjelica and Frayssinoux teamed to win their fifth doubles match in their last seven outings in clinching the doubles point for State at the #1 position. Doerr and Stump notched their third-straight victory on court #3 and have won four out of five this spring. The Bulldogs now lead UNLV 2-1 in the overall series as they avenged last year's defeat in Las Vegas.

MSU returns to action Saturday as they travel to Reno, Nev. to take on the University of Nevada. Match time is set for 3 p.m. CT.


Softball
AUBURN, Ala. - Mississippi State got hit each from Chelsea Bramlett and Jessie Bailey, but the No. 15 Mississippi State softball team was unable to plate any runs as the Bulldogs dropped Wednesday's rubber game of their SEC-opening series to Auburn 8-0 at the Jane B. Moore Field.

MSU fell to 22-6 on the year and 1-2 in SEC play. Auburn advanced to 22-4 overall and 2-1 in the conference as it shut-out State for just the second time this season.

Bramlett and Bailey were the only two Bulldog players to collect hits off Tiger starter Brittany Day. Day moved to 6-1 on the season as she tossed a two-hit shutout with seven strikeouts to pick up her second win over MSU in as many days.

"We didn't hit very well, didn't get good pitching and played bad defense today," MSU head coach Jay Miller said. "Hopefully we can bounce back from this game. We'll see how tough and resilient our team is with a tough Alabama team coming to Starkville this weekend."

Misty Flesher suffered the loss to drop to 7-4 on the year. The MSU freshman lasted just an inning and a third, giving up two runs on three hits. Kelsey Nurnberg gave up six runs, four earned, on five hits in two innings of relief. Elizabeth Woolven tossed the final two-thirds, striking out one.

The Bulldogs had a couple of early opportunities as a pair of runners reached on errors, but the MState bats were unable to capitalize.

Auburn struck early with five runs in the second inning, capped by Myesha Finney's second home run of the season. The Tigers added another run in the third before Jorja Bell extended the lead to 8-0 as he delivered a one-out double to left center that scored Taryn Gray and Tatiana Fernandez.

The Bulldogs open the home SEC slate this weekend, welcoming No. 2 Alabama for a three-game set at the MSU Softball Field. The SEC West rivals open the series Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. The two teams conclude the series Sunday with a 1 p.m. first pitch.


Women's Tennis
GULF SHORES, Ala. - The Mississippi State's women's tennis team defeated 74th-ranked Eastern Illinois Wednesday to claim its sixth victory of the 2008 season. The Lady Bulldogs are now 6-5 on the season. The Panthers of EIU fell to 6-2.

"We took care of business," said head coach Tracy Lane. "We played doubles very aggressive and I am extremely pleased with that. It was nice to get the win and be able to use the entire team the way we did."

MSU grabbed the doubles point early with 8-2 and 8-5 wins at the No. 3 and 2 positions, respectively. At No. 3, State's pairing of DeAndra Saddler and Valeriya Makarycheva downed EIU's tandem of Abby Allgire and Carrie Larson 8-2. On court #1, MSU's team of Radka Ferancova and Renee Joseph bested Eastern Illinois' Sandra Sasidharan and Cara Huck 8-5. Mississippi State also won at the No. 1 position with Lady Bulldogs Martina Banikova and Elna de Villiers defeating EIU's Natalie Martin and Hayley Homburg 8-4.

In singles, MSU took a 2-0 advantage when, on court No. 4, de Villiers promptly defeated Allgire 6-0, 6-2. State went up 3-0 when Tatiana Feit provided a 6-0, 6-1 win over Eastern Illinois' Huck at position No. 5.

The match-clincher would come at the No. 2 spot, where Mississippi State's Joseph bested EIU's Martin 6-4, 6-2. In the other singles matches, MSU's Ferancova posted a straight-set win over Homburg 6-2, 6-3 at the No. 3 position while State's Banikova also defeated Sasidharan in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 on court No.1. State finished off the sweep with freshman Elizabeth Hall claiming her first dual match win as a Lady Bulldog, downing Stephanie Harmazy in straight sets 6-0, 7-5 at the No. 6 spot.

State's next action will come in Mobile this Saturday, Mar. 15, at 11 a.m. CT when they will play the Sycamores of Indiana State in another neutral site contest.


Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Having earned their fourth SEC Western Division title in the last six seasons and posting their seventh 20-win campaign of the past decade, the top-seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-9, 12-4) will begin competition at the 2008 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament in Game 7 Friday evening by taking on the winner of Thursday's first-round contest between Florida and Alabama. Tip-off time for MSU's Friday night contest is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Atlanta's Georgia Dome. The first three days of the four-day event will be televised regionally by Raycom Sports.

Owners of a league-high six SEC West crowns since the SEC went to divisional play in 1991-92, coach Rick Stansbury's 21-9 Bulldogs posted their second-best conference record (12-4) under his 10-year guidance this season. Most recently, MState rebounded from a gut-wrenching 86-85 overtime road setback at 16th-ranked Vanderbilt by closing out a 12-3 home campaign with an 84-75 triumph over the LSU Tigers on ‘Senior Day' this past Saturday in Starkville.

As a team, the Bulldogs enter postseason tournament play ranked second nationally in both field-goal percentage defense (.369) and blocked shots (8.10 bpg) behind Georgetown and Connecticut, respectively. For all games on the year, MSU also tops the SEC in both scoring defense (65.0 ppg) and rebounding (40.9 rpg), while rating second in both three-point field goal percentage defense (.316 behind Tennessee) and rebound margin (+5.1 rpg behind Ole Miss).

Individually, the Bulldogs are powered by the first-team all-SEC tandem of junior Jamont Gordon (17.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg & 4.8 apg) and senior Charles Rhodes (16.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg & 56% FGs), who presently form the No. 3 scoring duo in the SEC for all games and second-best scoring tandem in league play behind LSU's Marcus Thornton and Anthony Randolph. Sophomore guards Barry Stewart and Ben Hansbrough contribute 11.7 and 10.4 points per outing, respectively, while combining to average 8.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game as well as having made 109 three-point field goals between them for the season. Fellow sophomore Jarvis Varnado patrols the post as the nation's No. 1 shot-blocker (4.80 bpg) to have made him a unanimous choice for this year's SEC Defensive Player of the Year by a vote of the league's head coaches. He also averages 7.8 points on 64-percent shooting and ranks as the fifth-leading rebounder (7.9 rpg) in the conference.


Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State Associate Head Track and Field Coach Steve Dudley has announced the signing of Rob Ellis of Tupelo, Miss., to a national letter-of-intent. Ellis will begin competition for the Bulldogs during the 2008-09 season.

As a distance runner, Ellis will work closely with Assistant Coach Houston Franks.

Ellis was part of the Tupelo High Golden Wave cross country and track and field team that swept both the 2007 Mississippi High School 5A Cross Country and Track and Field championships. The senior posted his career-best time of 4 minutes, 32.12 seconds in the 1600-meter run en route to capturing the individual title in the event at last year's state championship. Ellis also ran a career-best time of 2:00.90 in the 800-meter run, finishing second.

Ellis took home top honors in the 5000-meter run at the Saltillo Cross Country Invitational, crossing the line in a personal-best 15:49.43. He also placed second at the 2007 Mississippi High School Cross Country meet, where his teammates garnered seven of the top 10 spots in the race.

"We are really excited to have Rob sign with us," said assistant coach Houston Franks. "He is a very accomplished distance runner who has won individual state championships both in track and in cross country. He comes from a program at Tupelo High that has established a great winning tradition in the state of Mississippi with seven straight state championships in cross country, in which Rob has played a huge role.

"He is a very talented, hard working young runner who will be a great addition to both our cross country and track and field teams. It is always important for us as a program to try to sign the best track and field athletes in the state of Mississippi, and we feel that we have done that in signing Rob."

Ellis was honored as Mississippi's top cross country runner in 2007 with the Mississippi Blue Cross Blue Shield PopStar award.


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