For the second straight contest, guard Timmy Bowers paced all State scorers with a game-high 19 points against the Cowboys earlier in the week. The junior co-captain from Gulfport presently leads the Bulldogs in scoring (20.5 ppg) to rank fourth in the SEC. Senior point guard Derrick Zimmerman is averaging 15.0 points, 7.5 assists and 3.5 steals per outing through the first two contests. Senior forward Michal Ignerski is also netting double digits for the Bulldogs at 11.0 points per game.
As a team through the opening week of regular-season play, the Bulldogs are averaging 78.5 points and 42.0 rebounds per contest, while shooting 45.7 percent from the field. Defensively, MSU is limiting the opposition to collective 41.7 field-goal shooting, along with averaging 12.0 steals per game.
The preseason pick in the league's poll of media and coaches to claim the South Division title of the Atlantic Sun Conference, Jacksonville University owns a 3-1 mark on the young season after posting a 60-47 road triumph at Savannah State this past Wednesday. Set to play their first six games of the year within an 11-day stretch, including five road contests, the Dolphins followed a season-opening 85-55 home win over Saint Leo last Friday by claiming consolation tournament honors earlier this week at the Oregon-hosted John Thompson Foundation Challenge. In Eugene, JU rebounded from a 67-55 opening-round Sunday setback to Cal State Northridge with an 82-68 victory over Grambling State the following night in the tourney's third-place contest.
Guided by veteran head coach Hugh Durham, formerly of Georgia (1979-95) and Florida State (1967-78), Jacksonville enters Saturday's game at Starkville still without the services of four players, including senior starters Calvin Warner and Antwan Robertson, who are currently sitting out for violating a summer league participation rule. Reigning all-Atlantic Sun senior point guard Kevin Sheppard leads the Dolphins in both scoring (17.3 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg), while shooting 51 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free-throw line. Fellow senior backcourt mate James Daniels averages 15.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest for the Dolphins, who were 18-12 overall and 12-8 in A-Sun play last season.
Mississippi State owns a 2-0 all-time series lead over Jacksonville, having swept a home-and-home series over the Dolphins during the 1991-92 (77-74 in Starkville) and 1990-91 (79-65 in Jacksonville) seasons.
The Bulldogs' season-opening, six-game homestand continues into next week with contests against Alabama A&M (Monday), Jackson State (Wednesday) and Louisiana Tech (Saturday) at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum.