Year two of the Rick Ray era at Mississippi State begins tonight to tipoff the 2013-14 season.
The Bulldogs host Prairie View A&M to start their 102nd season of basketball at 7 p.m. tonight in Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU is 78-23 in season openers and have won 22 of the last 28 going back to the 1985-86 season. Ray lost his debut last year 56-53 on the road at Troy. The Bulldogs have not dropped back-to-back openers since the 1950-51 seasons.
State has only met Prairie View A&M once on the hardwood. The Bulldogs claimed a 97-52 victory on Nov. 29, 1991 in Lafayette as part of the Louisiana Classics Tip-Off. Mississippi State is 21-3 all-time against SWAC opponents.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 10-22 campaign last year, its worst such season since 1986-87. MSU returns five starters from last season which went 7-7 at home.
Ray’s squad shot 40.1-percent from the field last year and averaged 60.6 points per game. The Bulldogs knocked down 28.4-percent from the outside and 65.7-percent from the free throw line. Their opponents scored 69.5 points on average shooting 43.9-percent.
Sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword (6-3, 194) led State in scoring last season with 10.5 points and started 30 games. Fellow sophomore wing Fred Thomas (6-5, 206) returns after averaging 9.7 points a year ago. True freshman I.J. Ready (5-11, 170) is expected to start at point guard in his debut. Ready scored 21.7 points, six assists and four steals as a senior at Parkview Magnet (Ark.) High School.
Senior forward Colin Borchert (6-8, 231) comes back at power forward after making 24 starts last season. Borchert put up nine points and pulled down five rebounds in his first year at the Division-I level. Sophomore center Gavin Ware (6-9, 268) contributed 8.4 points and pulled down 6.4 boards.
Prairie View A&M is coming off a 15-19 season and advanced to the SWAC Championship game for the first time since 1998. In eight years with the Panthers, head coach Byron Rimm II is 0-7 against teams from the SEC but has never faced State.
Rimm II returns only one starter from the 2012-13 team but it’s a good one in SWAC Defensive Player of the Year Jules Montgomery. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward averaged 7.6 points and 6.2 rebounds a year ago and blocked a team-high 31 shots.
The Panthers do return seven letterwinners but also add seven newcomers to its roster as well. Prairie View A&M shot 39.8-percent from the floor and scored 64.2 points an outing. They also hit 26.1-percent from 3-point range and 61.5-percent from the charity stripe.
Rimm II’s team outrebounded their opposition by 3.9 on average allowing 65.4 points on 40-percent shooting.
Tonight will mark the Panthers initial outing while Mississippi State downed Auburn-Montgomery 86-57 in Starkville on Friday in exhibition action.
Tonight’s game will not be televised or broadcast on radio but can be seen/ heard by HailStateTV subscribers.