Georgia preview

Former New Albany standout Jazmine Spears has appeared in eight games for MSU this season. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Former New Albany standout Jazmine Spears has appeared in eight games for MSU this season. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

A “Battle of the Bulldogs” takes place Thursday as the 10th-ranked Mississippi State women’s basketball team heads to Athens to face Georgia.

Tip from Stegeman Coliseum is set for 6 p.m. CT online and via the WatchESPN app on SEC Network +.

Vic Schaefer’s Bulldogs hit the road boasting a 17-2 overall record and a program-best 4-1 SEC start following a 79-51 win against in-state rival Ole Miss at Humphrey Coliseum on Monday.

Georgia returns home looking to bounce back from a 64-50 road setback at Alabama on Sunday. The Bulldogs, under first-year coach Joni Taylor, have lost four of their last five games to fall to 13-5 overall and 1-4 in league play.

Thursday’s game sets up to be a defensive battle, as both teams sit atop the SEC in scoring defense. MSU is second in the conference and 15th in the nation allowing 52.9 ppg. Georgia sits just behind in third allowing 53.5 ppg.

“They (Georgia) play extremely hard and they’ve had a lot of success early. Just like all of us that get into the SEC for the first time, it can be a bit of a challenge,” Schaefer said. “They have a really good team with great guard play. You’re talking about two of the best guards in the league in (Tiaria) Griffin and (Shacobia) Barbee, and a great point guard in (Majorie) Butler. They are all seniors. It’s hard enough going on the road playing in this league, but when you have to go play a veteran team like this one, it is going to be a tremendous challenge.”

The Maroon & White also rates fifth in the country in turnovers forced with 24.2 ppg and third in NCAA Division I with a +9.6 turnover margin.

MSU, which has won the turnover battle in every game this season, faces a Georgia squad that is second in the SEC committing just 14.0 turnovers per game. State has done a good job protecting the basketball as well though, committing an SEC third-lowest 14.2 turnovers per contest.

Mississippi State also looks to build on the stellar offensive showing it had against the Rebels on Monday. The Bulldogs shot 49.1 percent from the field, its highest tally in an SEC game since last season’s win against Vanderbilt.

Sophomore Morgan William paced MSU with 16 points. William averages 9.3 points for the season, but is scoring at a 10.4 clip in SEC play.

The Birmingham, Alabama, native is second in the conference with 5.4 assists per game after dishing five against Ole Miss. She also knocked down a season-high 9 of 10 from the free-throw line Monday to stay atop the SEC and eighth nationally making 90 percent (72 of 80) this season.

Sophomore Victoria Vivians had a 17-game double-figure scoring streak halted Monday, but she still contributed eight points and a game-high nine rebounds to help lead MSU to a fourth-straight win against its in-state rival.

Vivians enters Thursday’s game leading the SEC with 17.5 ppg. The Carthage, Mississippi, native, who was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 Watch List last week, is tied for sixth in scoring in league play with a 15.4 average.

Mississippi State used a strong inside game in Monday’s win, taking a commanding 38-14 edge in paint scoring. The duo of freshman Teaira McCowan and Chinwe Okorie added 10 and 14 points, respectively, while going a combined 10 of 12 from the field.

The pair helped Mississippi State claim 20 offensive rebounds in the contest. MSU ranks second in the SEC with 19.9 offensive rebounds per game, but tops the league in conference play with 19.8 per contest.

McCowan has pulled down an SEC-best 5.2 offensive rebounds though the first five league games.

The Bulldogs face a Georgia squad that is paced by Griffin, a Mississippi native. Griffin tops the Athens-based Bulldogs averaging 14.6 ppg both overall and in SEC contests.

Barbee tops UGA with 9.4 rebounds per game this season, but in conference action she has averaged 11.2 boards while scoring at a 10.4 clip.

(From MSU Media Relations)

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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