GAME NOTES: The Mississippi Bulldogs close out a three-game homestand on Wednesday night, as they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC opener for both clubs at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville.
South Carolina has been one of the biggest surprises in the nation through the first two months of the season, and at 10-3 the team has already matched its win total from the entire 2011-12 campaign (10-21). After suffering back-to- back losses to St. John's (89-65) and Clemson (64-55) a few weeks back, the Gamecocks have reeled off a season-high five straight wins, most recently downing South Carolina State at home last Saturday, 80-69.
At the other end of the spectrum lies a Mississippi State squad that has not been able to get any momentum going, as it has yet to register back-to-back wins at any point. The Bulldogs have alternated losses and wins in each of the past eight contests, with their last game being their most impressive showing of the season in a 97-46 victory over New Orleans.
MSU has doubled up USC in the all-time series, 16-8, which includes a 69-67 overtime win last season on the road.
The Gamecocks have certainly put forth better efforts than they did when they shot a modest 45.1 percent from the field, but were still able to hold on for an 11-point win over SC State by attempting a whopping 71 shots. Lakeem Jackson led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds, while Brian Richardson added 15 points in the triumph. Brenton Williams was strong off the bench with 14 points, Damien Williams tallied 10 points and eight rebounds, and Mindaugas Kacinas (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Eric Smith (seven assists) had productive outings as well. South Carolina is used to getting a well-balanced effort on its way to 74.0 ppg, as nine different players net at least 5.0 ppg. The lineup has fluctuated quite a bit, with Michael Carrera (10.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and LaShay Page (11.7 ppg) going down with injuries, and Bruce Ellington (9.8 ppg) missing time because of football, but others have stepped up, notably Williams (13.1 ppg on .541 FG percentage). Jackson (10.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg) and Smith (5.7 ppg, 4.2 apg) are the only two players to start all 13 games.
Mississippi State dominated every aspect of it 51-point victory over New Orleans, shooting a lofty 56.5 percent from the field while holding the Privateers to more turnovers (23) than field goals (17). Pacing five players in double figures was Colin Borchert with 17 points, and he also added eight rebounds, five steals and three blocks to his stat line. Jalen Steele and Fred Thomas both tallied 16 points coming off the bench, while Roquez Johnson had 14 points and Gavin Ware finished with 10 points and eight boards. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they haven't enjoyed that kind of success on a consistent basis, as they average just 63.1 ppg on 41.2 percent accuracy from the field. Johnson scores a team-high 12.4 ppg, but he has handed out just four assists compared to 32 turnovers. Steele recently returned from injury to help out with 11.0 ppg, Thomas chips in 10.3 ppg (albeit on just 31.1 percent field goal shooting), and Ware is credited with 9.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg and more than a block per contest.
Despite MSU's outburst the last time out, it has yet to show that it can do that on a nightly basis, and the team tends to come up small against strong opponents. USC has a deep complement of scorers that will help carry it to victory in this conference opener.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 75, Mississippi State 65
01/09 10:33:32 ET
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