*State is 3-0 at home in league play and has five SEC games in The Hump in the second half of the schedule.
*State leads the rivalry now by a 135-105 count. Playing at home the Bulldogs are 88-24, but the Rebels took a 67-63 win in their last trip to Humphrey Coliseum. It was MSU's first loss on the home court in the series since 1998. Rick Stansbury is 17-7 against the Rebels, and that is the most wins against any opponent in his 12 seasons.
*Stansbury became the 20th coach in SEC history to win 100 conference games when the Bulldogs beat LSU two weeks ago.
*Senior G Barry Stewart has averaged 10.7 points in his seven games against Ole Miss. He has failed to score double-digits only once in this series with a nine-point outing as a 2007 freshman.
*State's five starters have accounted for 83% of scoring and 77% of the minutes played in SEC season.
About the Rebels: You couldn't blame Andy Kennedy for looking back to the big one that got away. Because had Ole Miss maintained their strong first-half pace and taken care of business back on January 9, they would be sitting pretty right now in the Western Division. They are still in pretty fair shape after rallying from a huge deficit to beat Alabama and open their SEC second-half, and all four of the losses are legit. Their big concern of the day is the health, or not, of frosh forward Reg Buckner after a three-game absence. If he can go tonight somehow, the Rebels will be able to throw a long line of big, or at least tall bodies at State's depth-thin frontcourt. Even without him this is a capable front-line. DeAundre Cranston isn't a big-numbers guy, just a solid center to build around and a fine complement to fast-improving Murphy Holloway. He was shut out in 15 minutes last month but has come to the forefront since then with strong rebounding and well-selected shooting. Classmate Terrance Henry isn't much of a drop-off either at both ends. They aren't the most ‘vertical' of groups and defend more by blocking out than blocking shots…and Kennedy can just keep shuttling them in as needed. Still the offense is based on the backcourt scorers and when Chris Warren is on his game he can shoot with anyone as those 72 treys-made shows. Don't send this kid to the line either unless you're willing to concede two instead of three. In his debut winter Terrico White looked like a sure SEC star of the future; he's having a good soph season but not quiiiiite as strong as projected. Possibly it's having to share the ball more with Warren and the other returnee from injury. Certainly having do-it-all-Eniel Polynice back on the court has made this the much more complete club. He scores in traffic, distributes, hits the glass, and usually draws the tough defensive assignment. Few look for him to allow State's point guard that half-step out front that was key to comeback in Oxford last month, by the way. Depth is good here, too, with Zach Graham and Trevor Gaskins subbing-in to shoot it up. The pieces and experience are here for the Rebels to make a second-half run and either win the West outright or at least have a decisive say in who does. If, that is, they can duplicate last year's upset and even the books for this season's series.
Projected Starting Lineups:
OLE MISS: G/F Terrico White, SO 6-5 213, 14.8ppg, 4.7rpg, 41 3ptrs; F Murphy Holloway, SO 6-7 230, 9.7ppg, 6.9rpg, 57%fgs; C DeAundre Cranston, SR 6-9 250, 4.6ppg, 4.0rpg; G Chris Warren, JR 5-10 168, 16.8ppg, 72 3ptrs, 81%fts, 80 asts; G Eniel Polynice, JR 6-5 220, 10.6ppg, 4.3rpg, 96 asts.
Top Backups: G Zach Graham, JR 6-6 225, 9.3ppg, 32 3ptrs, 42%3ptrs; G Trevor Gaskins, SO 6-2 200, 3.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 13 3ptrs; F Terrance Henry, SO 6-9 190, 5.9ppg, 3.0rpg.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Kodi Augustus, JR 6-8 220, 9.0ppg, 5.7rpg, 21 3ptrs; C Jarvis Varnado, SR 6-9, 13.5ppg, 11.3rpg, 116 blks; G/F Ravern Johnson, JR 6-7 175, 14.0ppg, 3.6rpg, 60 3ptrs; G Barry Stewart, SR 6-3 170, 11.3ppg, 52 asts, 46 3ptrs; PG Dee Bost, SO 6-2 170, 11.2ppg, 123 asts, 36 3ptrs.
Top Backups: G/F Phil Turner, JR 6-3 170, 6.1ppg, 4.8rpg; F Romero Osby, SO 6-8 230, 4.7ppg, 2.9rpg; G Riley Benock, JR 6-4 180, 1.7ppg, 12 3ptrs.
HOW THEY COMPARE (Full Season Stats):
Scoring: MSU 72.9, OM 80.3
Scoring Defense: MSU 62.0, OM 69.9
FG Shooting: MSU 43.3%, OM 46.2%
FG Defense: MSU 37.0%, OM 41.0%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 36.9%, OM 36.3%
3-point Attempts: MSU 24.2, OM 22.6
Rebounding: MSU 41.3, OM 39.0
Rebound Margin: MSU +5.2, OM +1.0
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 68.1%, OM 67.6%
Turnovers: MSU 13.3, OM 12.3
BULLDOG NOTES: When they took tipoff Saturday, G Barry Stewart and C Jarvis Varnado set the program record for career games played. Both have played, and usually started, in 128 games in their four seasons. That erased the mark set in 2003 of 127 by Derrick Zimmerman.
*Live by the longball, or lose by lack thereof. That is the Mississippi State offense this SEC season. In their four wins the Bulldogs are 33-of-92 at the arc, or 36%. In the four losses they are 24-of-101 or 24%.
*That poor outside accuracy has dropped MSU's overall field goaling to 38% in SEC play.
*Despite this, energetic defense has kept the Bulldogs in contention as opponents are just shooting 39.5% for the SEC season and scoring under 69 points. Both are third-best in the league so far.
*Naturally that defense is based upon blocking short shots, where State continues to lead the league with 66 swats in SEC play and 188 for the year.
*At this pace the Bulldogs can break their own SEC-season record of 271 blocks in 36 games (7.5) set just last March.
*For only the second time this season, Varnado had just one block in a game; at Florida last Saturday. The other was against Richmond. Still it was the 40th-straight game the senior has blocked a shot.
*He still continues on track to rewrite the NCAA record for career blocks. He now has 510 in four seasons and needs 26 to surpass the college standard of 535. That is about five games at his current 5.0 per-game rate.
*Last year Varnado averaged 4.7 blocks over 36 games to set the SEC record.
*After being held to nine points in consecutive games, Varnado has been back in double-digits the last three contests to keep a 13.5-point season average. But his shooting touch has still been slow. After making almost 65% in pre-SEC season, he is hitting just 43% for league play.
*In State's league wins Varnado is 23-of-41 shooting; in the losses he is 18-of-48.
*Varnado has gotten double-digit rebounds the last four games to maintain his SEC lead, with a 11.3 average for the year and 12.1 in league play. He now has 13 double-doubles for the season, 28 for his career.
*But his free-throwing has been off lately, 17-of-33 in the last six games.
*With his first point tonight, Varnado joins the career top-twenty scorers at Mississippi State. He has 1,218 points, one shy of catching both Dave Williams (1966-68) and Leland Mitchell (1961-63) for the 20th slot.
*His 987 career rebounds are third-most in MSU history, and with one big game he can also become only the third 1,000/1,000 Bulldog joining Bailey Howell (1957-59) and Rickey Brown (1977-80).
*G Barry Stewart is the only Bulldog to score double-digit points in all eight SEC games.
*The senior was already on the career top-twenty scorers list, and with 1,439 he stands now at 12th place. Next-up is the 1,451 points by former teammate Charles Rhodes (2005-08) for 11th place, and top-ten status needs just 1,461 points.
*Stewart's 248 career treys are second-most in MSU history, leaving him ten short of catching the record set by Darryl Wilson (1994-96). His 684 outside attempts are the program record.
*Stewart is 11-of-27 at the arc the last four games.
*He has made the 9th-most free throws in program annals, and taken 6th-most attempts.
*His 145 steals rank 7th on the Bulldog career list.
*Stewart should become the first Bulldog ever to play 4,000 career minutes tonight. He has 3,975 in his record 128 games.
*Hopefully G Ravern Johnson is regaining his outside touch, having made 4-of-10 in the last two games at the arc. In the previous four games he was 3-of-22 on longballs.
*But inside the arc Johnson has become an efficient scorer as he was 6-of-7 on shorter shots at Florida. His 20 points Saturday was most of the SEC schedule so far. He is 20-of-27 on two-point tries the last four games.
*Johnson has 60 treys for the season, still a bit ahead of last year's pace when he had 83 threes in 36 games. But his chances of setting the season record (Darryl Wilson, 97 in 1996) have taken a hit the last month.
*He has 152 treys in three years to rank 8th on the career list, needing 160 to catch Winsome Frazier (2002-05) for the next rung on that ladder.
*Johnson went five games without an assist; he's had three in the last two games. Still that's just 14 scoring passes in 23 games for the year.
*Assists are not a problem usually for PG Dee Bost, who issued a SEC-season high of nine Saturday. That's two shy of his career high 11 against Wright State this year.
*Bost is averaging 5.3 assists in SEC play. He's on pace to surpass his freshman MSU record of 156.
*In fact with 279 assists soph Bost should move into the MSU career-top ten (he needs 314) before the regular season is over.
*But his shooting has been frustrating since SEC season tipped off; 34% overall and 21% at the arc. Take away the first two league games and he is 4-of-29 on trey-tries the last six. He hit 38% in pre-SEC play.
*Bost has started all 59 of his college games, the only Dog on this roster who has never come off the bench.
*His field-shooting hasn't been sharp lately, 6-of-26 the last four games. But G/F Phil Turner has been reliable at the line making 11-of-13 there. He is 20-of-23 on SEC free-throwing, best in the league standings this week.
*He has been busy on the boards since the calendar flipped, at 4.5 SEC rebounds.
*PF Kodi Augustus seemed to snap out of a shooting slump making 6-of-12 at Vanderbilt. But he went 1-of-7 at Florida, leaving him at 33% shooting for SEC season.
*Where Augustus has come up big is on the boards at 6.5 rebounds in SEC play, after netting 4.7 in pre-league season.
*Of his 36 shots this season, G Riley Benock has fired 33 from behind the arc with a dozen makes.