After ranking as the Bulldogs' leading scorer this preseason, junior guard Timmy Bowers scored a team-high 22 points, including 4-of-9 three-pointers, against UL Lafayette in the season opener. MSU's team co-captain also matched his single-game career high with seven rebounds versus the Ragin' Cajuns, along with being credited with three assists and four steals. Bowers' backcourt mate and fellow team co-captain Derrick Zimmerman tossed in a career-high 18 points this past Saturday, in addition to totalling seven assists, four boards, three steals and two blocked shots. Off the bench, junior college transfer Branden Vincent contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Cajuns to become the first Bulldog player since Quentin Smith (1996-97 vs. Jacksonville State) to record a double-double in his regular-season MSU debut.
Guided by second-year head coach Tic Price, the Cowboys of McNeese State are the reigning Southland Conference regular-season and postseason tournament champions. In posting a 21-9 overall record and 17-3 league mark a year ago, the Cowboys advanced to the 2002 NCAA Tournament, where they dropped a 70-58 first-round decision to Mississippi State in the Midwest Regional bracket played at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Having claimed an 85-54 season-opening home victory over Texas Wesleyan this past Friday, McNeese's top two returning scorers are seniors Jason Coleman and Damond Williams, who averaged 14.4 and 11.4 points per game, respectively, last season. The Cowboys lost four starters from last year's squad.
Meeting for the third consecutive season and for the fifth time overall through the years, the Bulldogs own a 3-1 all-time series lead over McNeese State. Two years ago (Nov. 18, 2000), Mississippi State claimed an 83-74 home triumph over the Cowboys in the team's 2000-01 home season opener.
Following a brief Thanksgiving break this week, the Bulldogs will then play four home games during a busy eight-day span, beginning with next Saturday's (Nov. 30) home contest against Jacksonville University. Also on Mississippi State's current homestand agenda are Alabama A&M (Dec. 2), Jackson State (Dec. 4) and Louisiana Tech (Dec. 7).