MSU-South Carolina Pregame: Refocused Bulldogs Go for Season Sweep

Today’s game: MSU (8-20, 3-13 SEC) at South Carolina (13-16, 3-13), 6 p.m., ESPN3.com (Mike Gleason play-by-play, Nate Ross analyst), XM 199, Sirius 93.

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Mississippi State has something good to build on after Saturday’s 73-67 win against Ole Miss, and while South Carolina is an 8.5-point favorite tonight, it’s a very winnable game for MSU, which won the first meeting on Jan. 9 by a 56-54 score.

In my game advance, I look at forward Roquez Johnson and his desire to be a better, more focused player, and how the team as a whole is working to improve. He had a solid game versus the Rebels after serving a three-game suspension.

“It was like a disappointing view when you’re watching your team play from the bench than when you’re playing,” Johnson said. “I kind of re-evaluated all that stuff right there and looked at the things we needed to do better and get better at.”

The Gamecocks are trying to find ways to get better, too. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 games, but what MSU coach Rick Ray is concerned with is his team finding a different way to win from last time. In the first meeting, MSU scored 28 points off 24 South Carolina turnovers.

“That’s probably not going to happen (again),” Ray said. “You’ve got to find a way within our offense to manufacture more offense and not rely on those turnovers again. That’s the thing that concerns me right now, because Frank Martin is a quality coach. He’s not going to give you a lot of opportunities to score the basketball, so we’ve got to figure out a way where our scoring is going to come from and what are some things within their defense we can exploit.”

Here’s the scouting report from today’s Journal.

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MSU at South Carolina

Tip: 6 p.m.

TV: ESPN3.com

Radio: MSU Network; XM 199; Sirius 93.

Series: MSU leads, 17-8.

Last meeting: MSU, 56-54 (Jan. 9 in Starkville).

CoachesMSU: Rick Ray, 8-20 (first season); South Carolina: Frank Martin, 130-70 overall (sixth season), 13-16 at South Carolina (first year).

Notes: MSU snapped a 13-game losing streak with a 73-67 win over Ole Miss on Saturday. … State has won seven in a row over the Gamecocks, including three straight in Columbia. … South Carolina has lost nine of its last 10 games. …MSU ranks last in the SEC in scoring offense (59.7 ppg) and scoring defense (69.5 ppg). … SC ranks last in field goal percentage defense (44.9).

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MSU (8-20, 3-13 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Trivante Bloodman 6-0 So. 6.1 3.1 2.4a

G Craig Sword 6-3 Fr. 9.7 2.9 2.1a

G Fred Thomas 6-5 Fr. 9.4 3.5 32%FG

F Colin Borchert 6-8 Jr. 8.4 4.7 1.3a

C Gavin Ware 6-9 Fr. 8.9 6.4 55%FG

Key reserves

G Jalen Steele 6-3 Jr. 9.7 2.9 33%3s

F Roquez Johnson 6-7 So. 8.8 4.5 59%FT

G Baxter Price 5-10 Sr. 0.0 0.3 0.1a

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 59.7

• Scoring defense: 69.5

• Field goal%: 39.7

• Opponent FG%: 43.9

• 3-point%: 27.1

• Opponent 3PT%: 34.4

• Free throw%: 66.7

• Opponent FT%: 67.9

• Rebound margin: –4.5

• Turnover margin: –1.7

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South Carolina (13-16, 3-13 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Bruce Ellington 5-9 Jr. 9.8 2.7 2.6a

G Eric Smith 5-11 Jr. 5.6 1.7 3.0a

G Brian Steele 6-5 Fr. 1.3 0.8 33%3s

F Michael Carrera 6-5 Fr. 10.4 7.2 46%FG

F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 Fr. 5.3 4.0 52%FG

Key reserves

G Lakeem Jackson 6-5 Sr. 7.7 6.0 1.9a

G Damien Leonard 6-4 So. 4.2 2.1 77%FT

F R.J. Slawson 6-8 Jr. 4.3 3.6 44%FG

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 66.0

• Scoring defense: 68.6

• Field goal%: 41.5

• Opponent FG%: 44.9

• 3-point%: 32.4

• Opponent 3PT%: 33.2

• Free throw%: 67.8

• Opponent FT%: 65.6

• Rebound margin: –1.3

• Turnover margin: –1.3

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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