USC Upstate preview

Mississippi State senior Roquez Johnson tied a career-high with 20 points in his last outing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State senior Roquez Johnson tied a career-high with 20 points in his last outing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State will attempt to rebound from four straight losses today tipping off at 3 p.m. against USC Upstate at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.

The Bulldogs have only lost five consecutive non-conference games once (1963-64) since they joined the Southeastern Conference in 1933.

MSU is 16-5 all-time at the Mississippi Coliseum and has claimed a dozen straight victories in the venue. The Bulldogs last won 79-72 over Central Arkansas there during the 2012-13 campaign.

While the setting is familiar, State’s opponent is not. Today marks the first ever meeting on the hardwood between the two programs. The Bulldogs do hold a perfect 6-0 record against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Mississippi State is 5-4 on the year after dropping a 69-55 decision to Arkansas State at home on Wednesday. Senior forward Roquez Johnson tied a career-high with 20 points and was the only Bulldog in double figures.

After the game, head coach Rick Ray called it the most disappointing loss during his three-year tenure at MSU.

Ray’s roster is shooting 42.7-percent from the field and averaging 63.3 points per game. The Bulldogs are hitting 27-percent from behind the arc and 72.3-percent from the free throw line. State has outrebounded its opponents by 6.4 this season and is surrendering 59 points on 40.1-percent shooting.

Johnson and junior wing Fred Thomas are tied for the team lead in scoring, both averaging 12 points per outing. Johnson is also adding 5.3 rebounds off the bench.

Junior forward Gavin Ware is not far off their pace, putting up 11.6 points and grabbing 6.2 boards. Ware is just two rebounds shy of 500 for his career.

Joining Thomas in the backcourt is senior point guard Trivante Bloodman scoring 7.4 points and dishing out 3.6 assists while junior shooting guard Craig Sword is chipping in 2.2 points since his return from back surgery.

USC Upstate is 8-4 on the year and has dropped two straight on the road to Maryland (67-57) and Memphis (83-73) in the last week. Senior guard Ty Greene (6-3, 185) is coming off a 25-point performance against the Tigers on Wednesday.

The Spartans are 1-8 all-time against Southeastern Conference teams with their only win coming last season against South Carolina.

Thirty year coaching veteran Eddie Payne has seen his squad shoot 43.3-percent from the floor and score 72.8 points per game. USC Upstate is knocking down 36.1-percent from the outside and 65.1-percent from the charity stripe. The Spartans have outrebounded their opposition by 3.5 and are allowing 58.5 points on 37.9-percent shooting.

Greene leads the team averaging 16.7 points and is joined in the backcourt by the reigning A-Sun Player of the Week Fred Miller (6-4, 200). Miller, a senior, is scoring 13.5 points while senior guard Mario Blessing from Germany (6-2, 165) is contributing 4.3 points.

Sophomore forward and Southern University transfer Damian Goodwin (6-7, 195) is putting up 6.8 points and pulling down three rebounds while junior forward ShunQuez Stephens (6-5, 245) is adding 6.3 points and 5.3 boards.

Today’s game will not be televised but can be heard on the MSU Radio Network with Jim Ellis and Richard Williams 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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