*This is the first-ever meeting of MSU and WSU. State is 1-4 against members of the Horizon League, with the last such game in the 2003 NCAA Regional as Butler upset the Bulldogs in Birmingham.
*In his 12 seasons in charge, Rick Stansbury has won 120 non-conference games played during the regular season.
*WSU Coach Brad Brownell is 0-1 against SEC teams, having lost to LSU.
About the Raiders: Here is one of those ‘mid major' programs that bigger league coaches should be careful about scheduling. Not that Wright State need tote any chip on the proverbial shoulder with their record under Brownell. He's working on a fourth 20-win result in as many years at the Dayton school, and sixth of his eight-season coaching career. This winter he has a team that can take WSU back to the NCAAs after a two-year absence, too, if it can get healthy. The Raiders have missed senior guard John Gardner, sidelined until maybe January by hip surgery. Junior guard N'Gai Evans (6.4 points, 2.3 rebounds) will be back sooner, day-to-day right now with a knee that kept him out of the last game. Not having the team's top assists hand clearly contributed to a one-point loss at Miami that snapped the Raiders' three-game win streak. In fact the team's three defeats have come by a total of nine points, including a five-point setback at then-#14 Washington to begin the year. This may be the best backcourt in the Horizon with a pair of preseason All-League picks in senior Todd Brown and junior Vaughn Duggins. Both have played up to forecasts, combining for almost 30 points-per game with nearly identical shooting stats. They also hit the boards hard, something this team needs as Wright State has been vulnerable on the glass with just 28 rebounds averaged. That's the price to pay when pulling a big man out of the lane so he can throw up three-pointers, as both starter Ronnie Thomas and alternate Cooper Land like to do. They've hit 13 treys between them, though accuracy is an issue. For that matter the whole lineup has the green light to loft longballs, though few abuse the privilege it seems. The Bulldogs could certainly take some cues from WSU's ability to draw fouls and get to the stripe so often. Though, the Raiders aren't shy about committing personals themselves with 179 fouls (compared to 108 for State in as many games) and three DQs already. There is some size on this roster but it's not a very ‘vertical' team given just 22 blocks so far.
Projected Starting Lineups:
WRIGHT STATE: F Cory Cooperwood, SR 6-7 215, 10.3ppg, 5.0rpg; F Ronnie Thomas, SR 6-9 240, 4.3ppg, 2.9rpg; G Troy Tabler, JR 6-3 185, 11.1ppg, 2.6rpg; G Todd Brown, SR 6-5, 205, 15.1ppg, 4.9rpg; G Vaughn Duggins, JR 6-3 190, 14.2ppg, 2.7rpg.
Top Backups: F Cooper Land, JR 6-8 230, 7.2ppg, 3.3rpg; F Scott Grote, JR 6-6 220, 4.8ppg, 2.5rpg; G Darian Cartham, FR 6-0 190, 1.0ppg, 0.5rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 10.9ppg, 5.1rpg, 9 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 14.0ppg, 10.3rpg, 47 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 14.4ppg, 3.7rpg, 27 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 10.7ppg, 27 asts, 17 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 11.1ppg, 43 asts, 22 3ptrs.
Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 5.7ppg, 5.6rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 5.4ppg, 3.4rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 2.8ppg, 7 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 75.8, WS 69.2
Scoring Defense: MSU 58.4, WS 63.3
FG Shooting: MSU 46.1%, WS 45.8%
FG Defense: MSU 37.0%, WS 44.7%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 41.3%, WS 37.0%
3-point Attempts: MSU 24.7, WS 18.3
Rebounding: MSU 41.3, WS 28.3
Rebound Margin: MSU +8.2, WS -0.9
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 70.7%, WS 77.6%
Turnovers: MSU 13.1, WS 14.2
BULLDOG NOTES: It was only last year the Bulldogs set the program record for made-threes with 296. Well, that mark appears certain to fall by March. So far this squad has chunked in 92 treys. And the per-game-attempt rate of 24.8 is well-ahead of last year's 22.8 clip.
*State has hit for double-digit threes four times this season, including a dozen against DePaul and a record-tying 16 before that against St. Bonaventure.
*The three Dogs who have made 10 or more treys are collectively shooting 43% at the arc.
*All five members of the current starting lineup are averaging double-figures scoring. State starters account for 77% of the team's offense.
*As usual, State is crushing pre-conference competition in shot blocking with better than a three-to-one margin, 73 to 22.
*The current team pace of 8.1 blocks is also ahead of last year's 7.5 rate when State broke their own SEC record for season swats at 271.
*Bulldog defense is back with a vengeance. State's last four victims have shot a combined 33%. Maybe more impressive, opponents have hit only 16 of 66 (24%) of their three-point tries against State.
*The hottest Dog in town of course is WG Ravern Johnson. In his last three games the soph has scored 13 treys in 20 tries, giving him a team-best 27 longballs.
*Johnson was named SEC Player of the Week on Monday after torching DePaul for 14 points and UCLA for a career-high 29 more.
*Johnson is shooting almost 55% for the season and 48% at the arc. A year ago at this time Johnson was leading the NCAA in long-shooting accuracy.
*With 61 points in the last three games, Johnson has jumped into the team scoring average lead at 14.4.
*Johnson now has 127 threeballs in his three State seasons, and just jumped into the career top-ten surpassing Antonio Jackson (124, 2000-01). He needs two more treys to match the 129 by Jamont Gordon in his three State seasons.
*Johnson's career outside-shooting of 40.3% is third-best in program history behind only Shane Power and Marcus Bullard.
*But the junior defines ‘spot shooter' as he has been to the foul line only once all this season. He made the shot, as he has did in 85% of his chances as a sophomore.
*Johnson has never fouled out of a college game.
*Add seven more swats to C Jarvis Varnado's season, and career, totals. The senior now has 47 blocks on the season, a 5.2 game pace that is even better than the 4.7 of last winter when he smashed the SEC season mark with 170.
*With 441 career blocks Varnado, already the SEC record-holder, is now tied for eighth on the NCAA career list. Ironically he's matched with former UConn center Emeka Okafor who the Bulldog battled for the last two seasons for the NCAA lead. With one more block Varnado will tie for 7th with Deng Gai of Fairfield. The all-time record is 535.
*And Varnado is leading the nation in average blocks this season.
*Varnado has blocked a shot in 26-straight games, since being blanked in the home game with LSU last February. Before that he had blocks in 34-straight games.
*The 31st member of MSU's 1,000-Point Club, Varnado now owns 1,033 for his career and needs nine points more to catch Greg Lockhart (1986-89) for #30.
*Varnado had been on a hot shooting streak, making 15 of 19 shots in a three game run before he went 5-of-11 at UCLA. He's still hitting 65% for the season, a bit ahead of last winter's accuracy
*Varnado's career shooting of 59.9% is tied for second-best in program history, with Tony Robinson (1984-85).
*Varnado has grabbed 14 and 11 rebounds in his last two games, giving him five double-digit board efforts for the season. He now has 820 career rebounds, 7th-most in program history and twenty behind Kalpatrick Wells (1980-83) for sixth place.
*Varnado has five double-doubles this senior season, and 20 for his career. He is one of three Dogs in history with a triple-double to his credit.
*His current 10.3-rebound game rate is way ahead of his junior average of 8.8 when he had the sixth-most boards ever by a Bulldog at 317.
*Straight-shooting teammates have helped PG Dee Bost pile up the assists this early season. The sophomore already has 43 scoring passes and a 4.8 game average that is ahead of his 4.3 rate last year when he set the MSU freshman record with 156 assists.
*If Bost can keep up this pace and his team play a handful of post-season games, he can make the MSU career top-ten in just two years. Bost is already up to 199 assists in 45 games.
*Bost's own offense has been running hot or cold lately. After scoring just five points against Richmond, the soph hit for 25 and 17 points the next two contests. But now he has provided four and two points in the last two outings, on 1-of-12 shooting. His average scoring has slipped from 13.4 points to 11.1.
*Bost has started all 45 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.
*Senior G Barry Stewart now has played exactly 3,500 career minutes, in 114 games. He's on track to set the MSU record sometime in January, surpassing the 3,851 played by all-time scoring champ Jeff Malone (1980-83). Malone got his mark in just 110 career games, though.
*Stewart and Varnado have both played 114 games. The program record is 127 by Derrick Zimmerman (2000-03).
*A six-point day at UCLA ended Stewart's string of double-digit games at seven. He has topped ten points 71 times in his career.
*And with 1,274 career points he now stands 15th in program history
*Stewart popped a pair of treys against the Bruins, giving him 219 for his career. He is chasing the program record of 258 set by Darryl Wilson (1995-96).
*With 124 steals, Stewart is now 10th on the MSU career list.
*Stewart is getting close to top-ten career status in made free throws. He has 289 and needs 297 to tie Jerry Jenkins (1973-75) for 10th place.
*A four-game string of double-figure scoring ended for F Kodi Augustus with seven points at UCLA. But in that game he made 3-of-5 shots as the junior continues his efficient play. In his last three games Augustus is 10-of-14 from the field, and 6-of-9 at the arc.
*In fact Augustus is hitting 64% from the arc this year.
*But that is chilly compared to his outstanding work at the foul stripe. Augustus is shooting 86% on free throws for the year.
*That's shooting which only G/F Phil Turner can top. The junior does, having made all of his five free throw chances this season.
*Turner's forte has always been surprising bigger foes on the board. He's averaging 5.6 rebounds this season, better than the 5.5 rate of a year ago.
*But, Turner has missed his last 11 attempts from the arc over five games.
*G Riley Benock isn't 100% yet from his off-season hip problem. But the junior is getting there giving both valuable relief minutes at the point and making the most of his own opportunities to score. Since starting the season 3-of-10 shooting, Benock has made 6-of-11 shots in the last three games.
*And all of those made Benock baskets were threes.
*F Romero Osby has had a quiet start to his sophomore season too. He's worked back into the picture though making 7-of-13 shots in the last three games, with 14 rebounds off the bench.