GAME NOTES: The Providence Friars will try to extend their winning streak to a season-long four games on Saturday afternoon, as they host the Mississippi State Bulldogs as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.
This bout marks the first time these two programs have met on the hardwood.
After winning its home opener on Nov. 13 against Florida Atlantic (78-58), Mississippi State traveled to Hawaii to take part in the Maui Invitational, but its experience on the court was not a memorable one as it was the only team to go winless in three games. The Bulldogs managed to bounce back in their return home on Tuesday with a 60-42 win over Alcorn State.
Providence opened the season 2-0 before losing its first two games of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off to UMass (77-75) and Penn State (55-52 in OT) in nail- biting fashion. The Friars responded nicely from the slide however, by registering wins in each of their next three games, most recently on Tuesday versus Holy Cross, 61-42.
It has been a painful start for the Mississippi State offensive attack, as it is shooting just 38.9 percent from the floor and it has scored more than 62 points just once in six tries. The struggles continued for the Bulldogs in their latest outing, committing more turnovers (21) than field goals made (18), but it was able to claim an 18-point win by holding Alcorn State to a lowly 15-of-53 shooting on the night (.283). Craig Sword and Fred Thomas each tallied 14 points, while Sword added five steals. Roquez Johnson made up for six turnovers by scoring 13 points, and Gavin Ware ripped down 12 rebounds. On the season, Johnson is the team's leading scorer (15.2 ppg), and he is making half of his attempts from the field (26-of-52). Thomas is the only other Bulldog to score in double figures with 11.3 ppg. Ball control has not been MSU's strong suit this season, as it has registered just 52 assists on 121 field goals while turning the ball over 114 times (19.0 pg).
Providence's start has been modest at best, as it is making 44.5 percent of its field goals (including 30.7 percent of its three-pointers) for 67.3 ppg, but it has a winning record thanks to its effort at the defensive end, as it allows an average of only 57.1 ppg. The Friars put forth their best defensive effort of the year against Holy Cross, holding the Crusaders to just 18-of-54 shooting from the floor, including a woeful 1-of-20 from beyond the arc, which helped mask a poor shooting night themselves (24-of-61, .393). Bryce Cotton was able to overcome the mediocrity with 27 points and six assists. The junior has been one of the best guards in the country in the early going, putting up 24.3 ppg on nearly 47 percent from the field while adding 5.3 rpg and 4.8 apg. LaDontae Henton notched a double-double in the victory with 19 points and 10 rebounds, which isn't far off his per game output (16.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg). Kadeem Batts is also a valuable asset in the frontcourt for the Friars with 14.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg.
It remains to be seem whether or not Providence can compete with the elite teams in the Big East, but it has certainly gotten off to a good start. At home against a Mississippi State squad devoid of much talent this season, the Friars should have little trouble moving to 6-2.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Providence 77, Mississippi State 61
12/01 10:35:56 ET
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