Coach Rick Stansbury's State squad owns a 2-1 record on the young season after notching a second straight home victory with Saturday's 100-65 triumph over the Jacksonville Dolphins. MSU previously rebounded from its 79-76 season-opening home setback to Louisiana-Lafayette by posting an 81-65 home win over McNeese State last Monday.
As a team, Mississippi State enters the week ranked second in the SEC in scoring (85.7 ppg) and third in field-goal percentage (49.5%), while topping the league in turnover margin (+6.00) and ranking second in steals (12.7 spg) after totaling 29 swipes in the team's last two outings.
Individually, the Bulldogs continue to be paced in scoring by junior co-captain Timmy Bowers, who ranks fourth among the SEC's scoring leaders (20.7 ppg), in addition to rating second in made three-pointers per game (3.0) and third in steals (3.7 spg). Senior co-captain Derrick Zimmerman, who will play in his 100th career collegiate contest and turn 21 years old on Monday, stands tied for third in the league in assists (6.0 apg) and seventh in field-goal percentage (64.0%).
Returning four starters from last year's 19-10 club, which finished second in the regular-season SWAC standings and advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament, Alabama A&M has split a pair of decisions thus far on the 2002-03 campaign. Guided by 17th-year head coach L. Vann Pettaway, the 1-1 Bulldogs opened the current season with a 96-79 home win over Tuskegee, but most recently dropped a 68-40 decision at Vanderbilt on Nov. 24. Sophomore guard Rickey Ricketts tops AAMU in scoring at 18.5 points per contest, while also shooting at a 48 percent clip (10-of-21) from behind the three-point arc. Senior forwards Anthony Hayes and Garik Nicholson also score in double digits at 13.5 and 10.5 points per game, respectively.
This year marks the fourth consecutive season that the maroon and white-clad Bulldogs of Alabama A&M and the Mississippi State Bulldogs have met on the hardwood. MSU has prevailed during each of the three previous head-to-head Starkville meetings by an average margin of 29.7 points per contest, including last year's 70-45 State victory.
Following Wednesday's home game against in-state foe Jackson State, Mississippi State will close out its current season-opening, six-game homestand by playing host to Louisiana Tech this Saturday afternoon on the MSU campus. Tip-off time for the regionally televised (FOX Sports Net South; SEC-TV) MSU-LTU contest is set for 1 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.