Mississippi State closed out the regular season by winning four of its final six games.
Now the 11th-seeded Bulldogs will test their fortunes in the postseason by taking on No. 6 seed Georgia in the SEC Tournament at approximately 8:30 p.m. on SEC Network.
“We have been playing better down the stretch,” said MSU coach Ben Howland. “Hopefully we will play our best game, which we will need to do, against a team like Georgia that’s fighting to get into the NCAA Tournament.”
The SEC Tournament has not been kind to MSU of late. State is just 2-5 at the event since reaching the tournament finals in Nashville in 2010.
Mississippi State is 29-52 all-time at the SEC Tournament with three titles and are 17-38 in the opening game.
MSU had a brief stay at Bridgestone Arena last year. State suffered a 74-68 opening round loss to Auburn in what proved to be the final game under former coach Rick Ray.
“This is a whole new year,” Howland said. “It’s a single game and I don’t think what’s happened in the past, good or bad, affects anything to do with our preparation. We want to win this game badly.”
The battle of the SEC’s Bulldogs has already occurred once this season as Georgia defeated Mississippi State 66-57 in Starkville on Feb. 13. UGA sophomore forward Yante Maten scored a career-high 25 points in that contest while senior guard Charles Mann added a season-best 21 points.
“They beat us up physically,” Howland said. “They really handled us. Their zone and their physicality were the two problems. We got into foul trouble with Chicken (Craig Sword) and Gavin (Ware) and only played limited minutes.”
Ware and Sword have been State’s top two scoring options on the year averaging 15.8 and 12.8 points per game respectively.
Mississippi State (14-16, 7-11 SEC) enters the SEC Tournament off a 79-66 victory at home against Auburn to close out the regular season.
Georgia (17-12, 10-8 SEC) has won its last three outings and ended the regular season with a 70-63 home win over Alabama on Saturday.
UGA has four starters scoring double figures led by junior guard J.J. Frazier with 16.4 points. Frazier scored a career-high 37 points against MSU last year.
Georgia has won the last four contests against Mississippi State and seven of the last eight to lead the overall series 56-53. UGA is also 9-3 against MSU at the SEC Tournament, the most losses State has against any opponent at the event.