Bulldogs Face Bears In Jackson
It's just the second meeting between the two, with MSU claiming a 102-80 win in 1956 when the Bears were known as Arkansas State Teachers College.
The Bulldogs enter the contest with a 3-6 ledger following their 59-51 setback at Loyola-Chicago on Saturday, while UCA is 4-4 after its 91-63 loss at Oklahoma State on Sunday.
"(Corliss Williamson, UCA coach) is a Nolan Richardson disciple, and we're going to see a lot of pressing," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "If you look at the stats, the best thing to do against us is to make us handle pressure."
The Bears, who average 78 points an outing, are led in scoring by guards Robert Crawford and LaQuentin Miles at 14.6 and 13.9 points, respectively.
Prior to the setback against the Cowboys, UCA had won three in a row.
"Offensively, it is a dribble-drive offense," Ray said. "They're going to get in the paint and make individual plays to make us sink-in, so they can kick it out for open threes. There is some ball-screening involved but mostly its dribble-drive."
The Bulldogs enter the game looking for momentum as the non-conference portion of the slate winds down. A win Saturday gives MSU the chance to get back to .500 before SEC action begins on Jan. 9 at home versus South Carolina.
And if there's anyone that understands momentum at Mississippi Coliseum, it's freshman guard Fred Thomas.
The Jackson native, who prepped at Jim Hill, has fond memories of the "Big House."
In his last outing at the venue, he poured in a game-high 24 points and hit the game-winning, 3-point shot to lead his team to a 76-74 overtime thriller against Tupelo in the championship tilt.
"Going back down there, I feel it's going to be very special," said Thomas, who is second on the team with his 11.4 scoring clip. "But we still need to stay focused so we can win again."
Mississippi State is 15-5 all-time at Mississippi Coliseum, dating back to 1962 when it beat then Memphis State, 77-66. Last year, the Bulldogs ran past Northwestern State in the Capital City, 82-67.
"We want to be successful in Jackson," Ray said. "It's a major recruiting area. And we want guys to go back and play in front of their home crowd."
After Saturday, MSU is off for the holidays before turning to action on Dec. 30 at Humphrey Coliseum against Alabama A&M in a 3 p.m. game televised by CSS.