MSU to Face Arkansas

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Winners of four of their last five decisions, the 23rd-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs begin the second half of their regular-season SEC slate by playing host to the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday afternoon on the MSU campus. Tip-off for this second game of MSU's current three-game homestand is set for 4 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum, and the game will be televised regionally on FOX Sports Net South as part of the regional network's SEC-TV league package.

Rated 23rd nationally this week in the Associated Press wire service poll and 24th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, coach Rick Stansbury's 14-5 Bulldogs have improved to the .500 mark in league play at 4-4 following Wednesday's 82-60 home victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores. Prior to falling, 67-63, at Georgia last Saturday, MSU had recorded consecutive wins over South Carolina, LSU and Mississippi. Following a midweek break in action next week, State's current three-game homestand will conclude next Saturday, as in-state rival Mississippi visits Starkville for a 6 p.m. contest set to also be televised by FOX Sports Net South.

Saturday's MSU-Arkansas contest will feature the SEC's top two rebounding teams, with the Bulldogs and Razorbacks averaging 39.8 and 39.2 boards per game, respectively, on the season. State continues to top the league and rate among the nation's leaders in rebounding margin (+9.4) after outrebounding each of its last three opponents by double figures. By matching the team's single-game season high with 15 steals earlier in the week against Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs have increased their league-leading team average to 9.53 steals per contest. Offensively, MSU rates second in the SEC in scoring margin (+11.9), third in field-goal percentage (48.4%) and fifth in scoring offense (73.5 ppg), while Arkansas presently stands 11th in the league in all three offensive categories.

Coming off Wednesday's 22-point win over Vanderbilt, in which all five Bulldog starters scored in double figures, Mississippi State is paced by the junior tandem of center Mario Austin and guard Timmy Bowers, who average 16.6 and 14.7 points per game, respectively. Together they currently rank as the highest scoring State duo since Darryl Wilson and Dontae' Jones from the school's 1995-96 Final Four team. Senior forward Michal Ignerski rates as the Bulldogs' No. 3 scorer (10.3 ppg) and third-leading rebounder (5.6 rpg) on the year, while senior guard Derrick Zimmerman averages 9.5 points and 4.4 boards an outing in addition to ranking among the league leaders in both assists (4.9 apg; 4th) and steals (1.9 spg; 5th).

Guided by first-year head coach Stan Heath, who last season guided Kent State to a 30-6 record and an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament in his first year as a collegiate head coach, the Arkansas Razorbacks are 7-11 overall and 2-5 in league play after posting an 81-70 home win over 20th-ranked Alabama this past Wednesday in Fayetteville. Winless in six decisions away from Bud Walton Arena on the year, Arkansas' other league triumph this season was a 73-65 home victory over the LSU Tigers back on Jan. 22. The Razorbacks are led in scoring by freshman guards Jonathon Modica and Eric Ferguson, who average 12.4 and 11.3 points per game, respectively. A 54-percent shooter from the field, including 41 percent from the three-point arc, Modica also averages 4.3 rebounds an outing.

These two SEC Western Division foes have split the regular-season series during each of the past two years. A year ago, the Razorbacks claimed a 75-64 home win over MSU in Fayetteville, while the Bulldogs evened the score with an 89-83 home victory over the Hogs during 'Senior Night' festivities in Starkville.

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