Coach Rick Stansbury's 3-1 Bulldogs, rated 24th nationally in this week's Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today polls, have reeled off three consecutive victories since dropping a 79-76 home decision to Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 23 in their 2002-03 season opener. After posting an 81-65 home win over reigning NCAA Tournament participant McNeese State on Nov. 25, MSU has since knocked off Jacksonville (100-65) and Alabama A&M (100-58) this past Saturday and Monday, respectively, in Starkville. With 100-point efforts during each of their last two outings, the Bulldogs have reached the century mark in the scoring column in consecutive games for the first time in school history. In addition, only one squad (1956-57) in the 91-year history of Mississippi State's basketball program has ever recorded three 100-point games during the same season.
As a team, MSU now tops the Southeastern Conference in both scoring offense (89.2 ppg) and scoring margin (+22.4 ppg), along with ranking third in team field-goal percentage (51.7%) following Monday night's 42-point victory and 58-percent shooting performance against Alabama A&M. Defensively, the Bulldogs continue to lead the league in turnover margin (+7.50) and are now pacing the SEC in steals (13.0 spg) after being credited with 43 total swipes over their last three contests.
Individually, guard Timmy Bowers leads a quartet of double-figure Bulldog scorers on the season at 20.3 points per game, which currently ranks fourth in the league. In addition to having been the team's leading scorer during each of the first four contests, the junior co-captain from Gulfport also rates among the SEC leaders in steals (3.3 spg; 3rd in SEC) and made 3-pointers per game (3.0/gm; 2nd in SEC). Senior co-captain Derrick Zimmerman averages 12.5 points per outing, along with ranking fourth in the league in both field-goal percentage (66.7%) and assists (5.0 apg), and sixth in steals (2.5 spg). Senior forward Michal Ignerski and sophomore guard Winsome Frazier also average in double digits at 11.3 points per contest.
Guided by veteran head coach Andy Stoglin, Jackson State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference is winless in four outings thus far on the current campaign. Opening the 2002-03 season with 10 of their first 11 contests on the road, the Tigers most recently dropped an 85-63 decision at Iowa State Monday night. JSU began the season falling on the road to Arkansas (81-44), Southern Mississippi (80-62) and New Orleans (93-79). Returning three starters from last year's 9-19 team (8-10 in the SWAC), the Tigers are led in scoring and rebounding this season by senior forward Cliff Walker, who averages 13.5 points and 4.0 boards on the year.