Mississippi State is playing a better brand of basketball of late having won three of its last five outings.
The Bulldogs have been on the road for the last two games but get a chance to return to Humphrey Coliseum today taking on South Carolina at 1:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
“In my opinion, the toughest and most physical team in our league is South Carolina,” said MSU coach Ben Howland. “If I were an NCAA Tournament team here in a few weeks I would not want to play against the Gamecocks. They are so tough and physical. They are senior dominated with a lot of experience and great guard play.”
Howland understands firsthand just how physical the Gamecocks can be having previously played last month. South Carolina claimed an 84-74 victory in Columbia on Jan. 26 thanks in large part to the play of Michael Carrera.
Carrera set career-highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds in that contest. The 6-foot-5 senior forward from Venezuela paces the Gamecocks averaging 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. In his last five games he is putting up 18.2 points and pulling down 10.2 rebounds.
South Carolina is 23-5 overall on the year and sports a 10-5 mark in conference play. The Gamecocks have won two straight and are coming off a dominating 84-58 victory over Tennessee on Wednesday.
“We better understand what kind of game it’s going to be,” Howland said. “If you come out there and expect it’s going to be a ballet, it’s not happening. They’re knocking you around and it’s physical.”
MSU (12-15, 5-10 SEC) is on the heels of a heartbreaking 68-66 loss at Texas A&M on Wednesday. Six of the Bulldogs’ 10 losses in the league have now been decided by six points or less.
Senior forward Gavin Ware paces State with 15.6 points and 7.3 boards. Ware also leads the SEC shooting 62 percent from the field.
The school will recognize its 1996 Final Four team on the court during halftime of today’s game. That team featured notable players such as Erick Dampier, Darryl Wilson, Dontea’ Jones and finished 26-8.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said former MSU coach Richard Williams. “I’m sure there will be a lot of stories told and some stories embellished. I’ve seen a lot of the guys so it’s not like I haven’t stayed in contact but it’s been a long time since we’ve all been together so we’re all looking forward to it.”