Mississippi State looks to improve to 5-0 when it hosts Jacksonville State in a non-conference contest on Sunday. The Bulldogs are in the middle of an eight-game homestand to begin the season, while the Gamecocks have won two straight and are coming off a victory over Chattanooga to win the Cayman Islands Classic - Chattanooga Bracket on Tuesday.
Senior guard Malcolm Drumwright has been the top offensive producer for Jacksonville State, averaging 16 points and 3.4 assists, leading the team in both categories. Coach Ben Howland’s Bulldogs have been very balanced offensively, with five double-figure scorers, led by guard Tyson Carter’s 13 points per game. Three guards — Quinndary Weatherspoon, Lamar Peters and Nick Weatherspoon — are averaging between 12 and 12.8 points, while 6-10 Aric Holman (11.5 points, 7.3 rebounds) and 6-11 Abdul Ado (9.3, 7.3, 3.3 blocks) form a solid forward duo. Like most Howland-coached squads, Mississippi State is a tough defensive team, holding opponents to 35.3 percent shooting and 64.8 points per game.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, SEC Network Plus
ABOUT JACKSONVILLE STATE (4-1): The Gamecocks’ offense has been hitting on all cylinders in the early part of the season, with coach Ray Harper’s squad averaging 86.6 points while shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from 3-point range. Drumwright has been scorching from 3-point range, hitting 52 percent of his team-high 25 attempts from beyond the arc, but guard Jamall Gregory, averaging 13 points and hitting seven 3-pointers, ranks second in both categories, giving a pair of scoring options. One key against the bigger Bulldogs will be the play of 6-7 forward Christian Cunningham, who is averaging 8.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks, giving the Gamecocks a productive but undersized inside presence.
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (4-0): Despite the unbeaten record, Howland wants to see improvement from the Bulldogs in their outside shooting, which he feels a more normal schedule will help. Playing three games in five days right before Thanksgiving may have fatigued the team and made longer shots more difficult, so Howland is banking on three days off since the team’s last game helping in that department. Something definitely needs to improve, as Mississippi State is hitting just 27.1 percent from beyond the arc, with Holman and Nick Weatherspoon the only Bulldogs that have attempted more than one 3-pointer and have connected on better than 33.3 percent.
1. Carter scored a career-high 25 points in the Bulldogs’ win over Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday.
2. Under Howland, Mississippi State is 24-3 when leading at halftime and 7-29 when it trails at the break.
3. Holman needs four more blocks to tie for 10th most in school history.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 82, Jacksonville State 68