Mississippi State has a few more essentials packed in its suitcase this time.
As the Bulldogs (8-2) head to Houston today on their first true road trip – their four previous games away from Humphrey Coliseum were all on neutral courts – they’re riding a five-game winning streak and looking more like the team that won the 2009 SEC Tournament.
On Nov. 27, MSU played its first non-home game and lost to Richmond, 63-62, in the South Padre Island (Texas) Invitational. It bounced back the next day to beat Old Dominion, and then it scored convincing wins against DePaul, in Tampa, Fla., and UCLA, in Anaheim, Calif.
“It’s very obvious after those two being away from home and winning, we feel much better about going on the road,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said of the DePaul and UCLA wins. “But we know it’s not easy, and we’ll have to play exceptionally well against Houston to win down there.”
Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion might not provide the most hostile environment – it’s drawn an average of 2,620 fans in the Cougars’ first two home games – but it’s another chance for MSU to prove that hot shooting and chemistry travel well.
The Bulldogs are hitting 47.5 percent of their shots this season, including 41.9 percent from 3-point range, which ranks first in the SEC.
“When everybody’s hitting threes like we were (Wednesday), I don’t think nobody can beat us,” said junior guard Ravern Johnson, who’s made 30 of 60 from behind the arc.
Overshadowed by the raining threes is MSU’s defense. State leads the league in scoring defense (59.5 points per game), field goal percentage defense (36.8), and blocked shots (86).
Houston (5-2), which is coming off a 93-85 win over Troy on Monday and owns a win against Oklahoma, is led by 6-foot-4 senior guard Aubrey Coleman, whose 26.7 points per game leads the nation.
That won’t concern the Bulldogs too much.
“I think we’re completely opposite of earlier in the year,” senior guard Barry Stewart said. “We’re playing together more, and things are clicking, and our shots are falling.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.