Six Mississippi State seniors will take the floor for the final time at Humphrey Coliseum today.
The Bulldogs will bid farewell to Travis Daniels, Reggie Patterson, Craig Sword, Fred Thomas, Gavin Ware and Johnny Zuppardo prior taking on Auburn at 1:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
It will be the initial group of seniors to depart under first-year coach Ben Howland.
“I really feel like they bought into me and trusted me and given me themselves, especially over the course of the last six, seven weeks,” Howland said. “That means a lot to me. I really am sad I don’t have these kids back for another year. I appreciate all they’ve given to this university and this program. I want to help them any way that I can.”
At the core of the class is a trio of seniors that have persevered through three coaching changes over the course of their careers. Sword, Thomas and Ware all signed under Rick Stansbury and remained at MSU when Rick Ray was hired prior to their freshman seasons.
Sword, Thomas and Ware endured three consecutive losing seasons but all three have eclipsed the 1,000-point plateau for their careers.
“We came in with a big job and we stayed together,” Sword said. “Nobody ever left. We’ve just been here for each other. It’s been tough and we’ve been through a lot but I would never change anything that happened.”
MSU is trying to avoid a fourth straight losing season and enter the regular season finale at 6-11 in SEC play and 13-16 overall. The Bulldogs are currently 12th in the seeding for the conference tournament and need a victory today and Tennessee to lose to Ole Miss to avoid playing in the first round game Wednesday in Nashville.
The Bulldogs’ opponent, Auburn, is currently 13th in the league standings at 11-18 and 5-12 in the SEC. The Tigers have dropped three of their last four games including two straight at Alabama (65-57) and to No. 20 Texas A&M (81-63).
“They are good and are a problem,” Howland said. “They are very physical and have great size and are big. They switch everything defensively. When they get hot offensively they can be very dangerous.”
All Auburn’s starters are 6-foot-7 or taller. Graduate transfer Tyler Harris (6-10) is the Tigers’ top scorer and rebounder averaging 14 points and 7.7 boards.