South Florida preview

Sophomore wing Fred Thomas is averaging 7.7 points per game.  (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Sophomore wing Fred Thomas is averaging 7.7 points per game. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Mississippi State will participate in the Las Vegas Classic for the first time since 2001.

The Bulldogs will take on South Florida tonight at 7 p.m. and meet either Santa Clara or UNLV on Monday.

MSU is 2-0 all-time against South Florida but the two have not played since 1974. The Bulldogs are 20-25 against teams that currently comprise the American Athletic Conference.

The Bulldogs went 3-1 in their last outing in the Las Vegas Classic. State enjoyed victories over Louisiana-Monroe, Richmond and Illinois-Chicago before falling to Cincinnati.

Rick Ray’s squad has won three straight and are 8-2 on the year, just two wins shy of its 2012-13 total. USF is also 8-2 this season having won four consecutive outings. The Bulls and Bulldogs both have wins over Florida A&M and Florida Gulf coast in its last two games.

Mississippi State won 78-65 over Florida A&M and 66-53 against Florida Gulf Coast while South Florida won 68-66 over Florida Gulf Coast in double overtime and 73-70 against Florida A&M.

The Bulldogs are shooting 46-percent from the field and averaging 70.7 points. MSU has made 30.3-percent of its shots from the outside and 62.9-percent from the charity stripe and lead the Southeastern Conference with 9.9 steals. Their opponents are scoring 64.1 points on 42.3-percent shooting.

Sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword continues to lead the Bulldogs with 15.5 points and is fifth in the SEC with 1.8 steals. Sword scored 17 points in State’s win over Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday.

Sword is joined in the backcourt by true freshman point guard I.J. Ready averaging 7.5 points and dishing out three assists and redshirt freshman wing Dre Applewhite chipping in 5.8 points.

Sophomore center Gavin Ware is putting up 10.7 points and pulling down 8.1 rebounds. Senior forward Colin Borchert is scoring 8.6 points and grabbing 3.8 boards.

USF is coached by former Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, who is in his seventh season in Tampa. The Bulls are shooting 44.4-percent from the floor and scoring 71.2 points. They are knocking down 26.9-percent behind the arc and 67.8-percent from the free throw line. Their opposition is scoring 67.5 points on 40-percent shooting.

Senior forward Victor Rudd (6-9, 235) is putting up 15.7 points and grabbing 6.8 rebounds freshman forward/ center Chris Perry (6-8, 266) is averaging 8.8 points and 6.6 boards.

Nigerian freshman center John Egbunu (6-10, 245) is chipping in 8.1 points and 5.9 rebounds.

Junior guard Corey Allen Jr. (6-1, 152) is scoring 13.4 points while fellow junior guard Anthony Collins (6-1, 175) is adding 6.9 points.

Tonight’s game from the New Orleans Arena will not be televised but can be heard on the MSU Basketball Radio Network with Jim Ellis and Bart Gregory on the call.

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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