STARKVILLE, Miss. - When the Southeastern Conference unveiled its men's basketball honors on Tuesday, Mississippi State was well represented.
For the second year in a row, the league coaches tabbed Jarvis Varnado the Defensive Player of the Year. The Brownsville, Tenn., native was also named to the All-Defensive and All-SEC teams and enters Thursday's showdown against Georgia in the SEC Tournament in Tampa, Fla., with a nation-best 143 blocked shots.
Point guard Dee Bost, who has started all 31 games for the Bulldogs, was one of eight players named to the All-Freshman team. Earlier this year, the Concord, N.C., native set a school freshman record for assists, breaking Jamont Gordon's mark of 129 set in 2006. He's also currently second in 3-pointers attempted (147) and free throws made (106) and third in 3-pointers made (52) and free throws attempted (146). He heads to Tampa having already dished out 135 assists and is averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 boards.
Varnado, who tied the SEC record with 157 blocks last year, is 19th in the league in scoring (13.0), third in rebounds (9.0) and fifth field-goal percentage (.554).
Coaches voted on eight member teams for First Team All-SEC, Second Team All-SEC and for the SEC All-Freshman Team. They voted on a five-player squad for the SEC All-Defensive Team. They were not permitted to vote for their own players and ties were not broken.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State (8-4) returns to action at Dudy Noble Field Wednesday afternoon when the Bulldogs play host to first-time opponent Valparaiso (4-6) in a day/night doubleheader. The opening game is set for 2:30 p.m. while the nightcap is slated to start at 6:30 p.m.
Coach John Cohen has tabbed junior righty Ricky Bowen (0-0, 4.66) of Jasper, Ala., for the afternoon start, his third game-opening mound appearance of the young campaign. True freshman lefty David Hayes from Homewood, Ala., is set to make his collegiate debut in a starting role in the nightcap.
Valparaiso has designated a pair of right-handers, sophomore Bryce Shafer (2-0, 6.19) and senior Alex Berry (0-2, 8.44) for starts against the Bulldogs, though their order in the day's pitching rotation has not been announced.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 1-3 showing in a four-game road series at the University of Hawaii. State claimed a 3-1 win in the opener before dropping 7-4, 10-5 and 11-5. Junior outfielder Luke Adkins of Nettleton, Miss., hit a team-best .462 (6-for-13) with a pair of doubles and an MSU career-first grand slam home run during the series. Adkins hit safely in all four games at Hawaii.
The Crusaders, who compete in the Horizon Conference, are in the midst of a season-opening 20-game road run. Valpo won four of its first five games to open the season before bowing twice in midweek games at Arkansas and dropping all three games in a weekend series last weekend at Memphis. Senior catcher Matt Lenski paces the Crusaders at the plate with a .44 batting average. Junior infielder Kyle Muhlsteff (.289) shares the team lead with 11 hits and paces the club with seven RBI in 10 games.
Following the Valparaiso doubleheader, Mississippi State launches its 75th season of Southeastern Conference competition this weekend when the Bulldogs entertain SEC East foe South Carolina in a three-game series. Weekend game times are set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.