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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 9:05 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) -- Logan, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 3-0, USU 2-0. Away Record: MSU 0-0, USU 1-0. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, USU 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, USU 0-0. Series Record: Mississippi State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Utah State Aggies will both put their unbeaten marks on the line on Saturday night, as the squads square off at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Mississippi State tipped off its season with a perfect three-game homestand, as it defeated Prairie View A&M (71-56), Kennesaw State (78-55) and Mississippi Valley State (94-72). The Bulldogs are attempting to move to 4-0 for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign.
Utah State is likewise off to a 3-0 start, marking the sixth time it's accomplished that feat in coach Stew Morrill's 16-year tenure. After dismissing USC (78-65) and Southern Utah (90-57) at home, the Aggies hit the road for the first time last Saturday and tackled one of the favorites in the Big West Conference with a 71-64 win over UC Santa Barbara.
Mississippi State won the only previous meeting between these two teams back on Dec. 31, 2011, 66-64.
The Bulldogs enjoyed their third consecutive blowout win, taking down MVSU earlier in the week by shooting 52.2 percent from the field while dominating both the rebounding (41-27) and turnover (18-11) battles. Gavin Ware put forth an outstanding performance with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while shooting 8- of-11 from the floor. Colin Borchert added 13 points, Roquez Johnson netted 12 points off the bench and Craig Sword chipped in 10 points.
Facing some inferior competition in the early going, the Bulldogs have taken advantage by shooting 47.1 percent from the floor for 81.0 points per game, 20 points more than they allow at the other end of the court. Ware (15.7 ppg, 12.0 rpg) has been the catalyst with two double-doubles in three games. Fred Thomas (12.5 ppg) and Borchert (12.0 ppg) have been stellar from 3-point range, combining to shoot 11-of-26. Johnson rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.0 points per game.
The Aggies built a 10-point halftime lead at UCSB and never surrendered that advantage down the stretch. Despite getting outshot from the field, 48 percent to 42.3 percent, they had a superior night from beyond the arc (10-of-21) and the foul line (17-of-19) while also dominating the glass (38-25). Preston Medlin struggled with his shot overall (6-of-15), but he made four 3-pointers and led all scorers with 18 points. Spencer Butterfield tallied 16 points and seven rebounds, Ben Clifford came off the bench to score 10 points, and Jarred Shaw narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and nine boards.
Utah State has excelled at both ends of the floor this season, boasting a +17.7 scoring margin while outshooting the opposition from the field, 49.4 percent to 38.1 percent. Shaw leads the charge from the paint, logging 15.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Medlin pours in 13.7 points per game, but that number figures to creep up as his field goal percentage (.394) improves. Butterfield (13.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) plays much more physical than a typical 6- foot-3 guard.
Despite Mississippi State's fast start, it has yet to be challenged by a formidable opponent, which Utah State definitely qualifies as one, and the Bulldogs will have a difficult time finding a rhythm in hostile territory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Utah State 77, Mississippi State 66
11/23 10:35:41 ET