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Monday Morning Coffee Break

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Mississippi State, appearing rusty after a nine-day layoff, defeated the 5th ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the New Orleans Arena this past Saturday afternoon, 54-45. I didn't add the word upset because, as we MSU fans already know, this MSU team is a very, very good team, probably one of the top 10 in the nation. Like our team, we fans now expect them to win each time they go out on the court, even when the opponent is of the highly ranked variety.

The soon-to-be top 10 to 12 ranked Bulldogs did what they do best during the Oklahoma game and that is defend, defend, defend.

In fact, they defended so well it caused the Sooners' All-American guard candidate Hollis Price to say they were one of the best defensive teams that he had ever faced.

He wasn't joking either.

Consider that no other team has held the Sooners under 62 points this season. And that was the Alabama Crimson Tide, currently ranked 1st and 3rd in last week's polls.

Even last season, Oklahoma's lowest output was 53 points.

These Bulldogs know how to defend...and win.

Now 8-1 on the young season, including two wins over teams that were ranked 11th and 5th at the time the Bulldogs played them, this team is hungry for more success...and respect.

National respect, thanks to the two televised victories over those two ranked teams, should be forthcoming with today's polls.

Currently ranked 17th in both the AP and USA Today polls, MSU, partly due to their impressive win over the Sooners and partly due to losses by four teams ahead of them, Oklahoma (5th), Illinois (7th), Indiana (11th) and Kentucky (14th), should be 10th to 12th in the latest polls.

With two more road games ahead of them this week against the 6-4 University of South Alabama (Monday, 7 p.m.) and the 8-2 University of Alabama at Birmingham (Thursday, 7 p.m.), it is absolutely imperative that the Bulldogs put their victory over Oklahoma out of their minds if they want to continue having success.

Why do I say that, you ask?

Consider this:

1) South Alabama has played top of the line competition such as LSU, Georgia and Louisville all on the road this season. LSU, which defeated then number one ranked Arizona earlier in the season, defeated USA by 9. Georgia defeated USA by 12, while Louisville, recent 18-point winners over the 14th ranked Kentucky Wildcats, defeated USA by 11.

This is a team that loves to shoot the threes. In fact, about 40% of their shots are of the three-point variety. And they have one player, guard Chris Young, who has shot 103 three-pointers this season, making 49 of them (47.6%). And he didn't pad his shooting percentage by making his shots against no-name teams. Against LSU, Georgia and Louisville, he was 17-of-34. The key to this game could very well be how well MSU's guards defend the three-point shooting of USA, in particular Young. As MSU found out in the first game of the season, a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette, a good three-point shooter can spell doom to a team, even a more talented team, when he is hot.

2) While UAB hasn't played the same caliber of opponents that USA has, they have still won 5 in a row and 8 of 10 games this season. And they have won all 6 of their home games this season. Plus, MSU has only defeated UAB 1 time in 5 meetings, including losing both games played in Birmingham. In fact, UAB currently has a 4-game winning streak against MSU.

Like South Alabama, UAB likes to shoot the threes. And like USA, they have a guard, Morris Finley, who is very effective at making the three, hitting 45.9% of his three-point shots (28-of-61) this season. Once again, the perimeter defense of MSU will be tested to the max.

Both teams have upset on their mind and are capable of pulling one out if the Bulldogs rest on their laurels and don't play good D.

Folks, nothing comes easy when that bull's eye is squarely on your team's back. But when you want to be one of the best, you want that bull's eye.


MSU commitments and signees to date:

Scott Shurden, K, 5-8, 170, Neshoba Central HS.
Tyler Threadgill, QB, 6-0, 185, 4.48, Philadelphia HS.
Brian Anderson, OL, 6-5, 280, 5.2, Patrician Academy (Butler, AL).
Royce Blackledge, OL, 6-4, 270, 4.9, Northeast Jones HS (Laurel, MS.)
Donovan Davis, OL, 6-6, 305, 5.3, Callaway HS.
Lance Fremin, OL, 6-2, 275, 5.1, Starkville HS.
JJ Grant, DE, 6-4, 250, 4.8, Butler (KS) CC.
Avery Hannibal, DE, 6-1.5, 245, 4.75, Troup County (GA) HS.
(SIGNEE) Deljuan Robinson, DL, 6-5, 290, 4.8, Hernando (MS) HS.
Ken Griffith - LB, 6-3, 245, 4.8+, Brandon HS.
Brad Horton, LB, 6-1, 230, 4.6, Spencer HS (Columbus, GA.)
Quinton McCrary, LB/DB, 6-2, 205, Columbus HS.
(SIGNEE) David Heard, DB, 6-0, 185, Vicksburg HS.
Akeem Lofton, ATH, 5-11, 175, 4.6, Wayne County HS.
(SIGNEE) Chris Swain, DB, 6-0, 190, 4.5, Jones County JC

Well, that wraps up this week's edition of the Monday Morning Bulldog Coffee Break.

Have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll

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Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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