GTHOM! The Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-5, 3-4) are back tomorrow afternoon in Oxford, Mississippi. MSU has won 3 of their past 5 games. Their most recent outing was a very frustrating loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Bulldogs missed a total of 10 free throws, shot 3/19 (15.8%) from 3, and 32-71 (45.1%) from the field in a 83-79 loss. Mississippi State has been a consistent free throw shooting team, but something was off this game and it showed. The Bulldogs have to bounce back from this bad loss and do something Ben Howland has never done: win in the Mize Pavilion.
The School Up North has hit a wall since they came to The Hump. TSUN has lost 4 of their last 5 games since playing the Bulldogs and are currently on a 3-game losing streak. The Rebels got handled at home by LSU and Iowa State, then lost on the road to Alabama and Florida; they have only passed their scoring per game average twice: a 84-67 win over Arkansas, and an overtime loss to Florida. Ole Miss (14-6, 4-3) has struggled since they played the Bulldogs, but Kermit Davis will have the same mission as Ben Howland: get a win and his team back on track.
All of Ole Miss’ shooting statistics have dropped the past 5 games, not significantly, but they have dropped. MSU’s has stayed about the same, but the biggest difference between now and January 13th: the emergence of Reggie Perry. Reggie Perry had an incredible game against Alabama; honestly, I wouldn’t call that his breakout game. Perry has so much more potential and this game was a flash of how dominant he’ll be for the Bulldogs in the future. Robert Woodard has been playing more and the team has been racking up points when the freshman duo is on the floor together. Perry is averaging 10 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1 block over the last 5 games. Woodard’s numbers over the same span are 5.2, 5.8, and 1.2 assists. These freshman are starting to figure out how to play in the SEC, and it’s just a matter of time before these freshman are starting for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State and TSUN’s team stats are almost identical. Both teams average 74 ppg, but allow 70 ppg, both shoot 47% from the field, average 36 rebounds, 15 assists, and 7 steals. I’m seeing another shootout between these two offenses, but something is going to have to give. The Bulldogs’ effort defensively has not been entirely there this season, and Coach Howland needs to correct it. If Howland wants to keep his magical 4th year streak alive, he will have to get his team focused and prepared to play on the road in an arena Mississippi State has never won in. If MSU loses, they’ll drop to 10th in the SEC; but if they win, the Dawgs will be back in 6th place and ready to make a push for the SEC Title.
The players know what’s at stake if they lose, and we all know these seniors don’t want to say goodbye to Starkville without a NCAA Tournament appearance. Nick Weatherspoon had a knee injury against Alabama, but is cleared to play. The Bulldogs’ shooting ability and emergence of their stud freshman might be too much to handle for the Rebels. Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters will lead this team up to Oxford and leave with a victory to split the season series. Hail State and GTHOM!