GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs will try to put an end to their prolonged losing streak on Saturday afternoon, as they are set for a road showdown with the Missouri Tigers in SEC action at Mizzou Arena.
Since opening its SEC slate of games a solid 3-2, Mississippi State has fallen into a tailspin with 10 consecutive losses, most recently dropping a 75-68 home decision to Tennessee on Wednesday. The Bulldogs are 13-15 overall, tied for last play in the league with South Carolina at 3-12 and winless in eight road games.
Missouri is an impressive 19-9 overall, but thanks to a disappointing 7-8 conference mark, it is currently situated squarely on the bubble for NCAA Tournament consideration. The Tigers have dropped two straight, both on the road, most recently at Georgia on Tuesday (71-56), but they have been excellent on their home floor, winning 13-of-15 games.
The Tigers beat the Bulldogs last season in Starkville, 78-36 in the teams' first meeting as SEC foes. Missouri now leads the all-time series, 3-1.
The Bulldogs faced a 12-point deficit early in the second half of their most recent contest, and while they were able to battle back and get within four points of the lead on several occasions, they could never get over the hump. They shot a modest 42.9 percent from the field on the evening, better than Tennessee's 39.4 percent showing, but they attempted 10 fewer field goals thanks in part to losing the rebounding battle, 43-35. Roquez Johnson was stellar despite the setback with 19 points on 6-of-13 from the field, while Fred Thomas poured in 18 points off the bench.
It's no surprise that Mississippi State is situated near the bottom of the league rankings in both scoring offense (68.3 ppg) and scoring defense (70.8 ppg), and it owns a -2.0 rebounding margin and has poor percentages both from 3-point range (.304) and the charity stripe (.659). Pacing the lackluster offensive attack is Craig Sword, who puts up 13.3 ppg on 48.2 percent field goal shooting. Gavin Ware is a mainstay in the paint with 10.3 ppg (on 59.7 percent shooting) to go with 7.4 rpg. Johnson (9.7 ppg), Colin Borchert (9.4 ppg) and Thomas (8.3 ppg) have all been solid as well.
The Tigers were never much of a factor in their latest bout, as they fell behind by nine at the half and eventually saw their deficit grow to as many as 24 down the stretch. They were outshot from the field, 52.1 percent to 32.1 percent, and were especially bad from 3-point range, making only 3-of-18 from beyond the arc. Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson both poured in 17 points, but the duo combined to shoot only 9-of-29 from the field. Johnathan Williams added 10 points to the losing effort and Ryan Rosburg hauled in 12 rebounds.
Missouri's offensive attack is usually much more potent, as it shoots a lofty 46.0 percent from the field and 73.3 percent at the free-throw line this season for 74.2 ppg, which had been enough to support a solid defensive effort (.410, 69.4 ppg). The squad owns a strong +5.6 rebounding margin but also gives away several possessions each game with a -1.9 turnover margin. Brown is the SEC's second-leading scorer, netting 20.1 ppg thanks largely to his 72 3- pointers drained at a 43.1 percent clip. Clarkson is an outstanding second option with 18.6 ppg to go with 3.4 apg, while Earnest Ross (14.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) rounds out one of the nation's best scoring trios.
Missouri has had its share of ups and downs in recent weeks, but returning home to play one of the league's bottom dwellers, it should have no problem getting back on the winning track.
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