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March 11, 2011
With such an up and down year for Mississippi State things now become fairly simple - win their next three games in the SEC Tournament and go dancing.
First up on the Bulldogs quest to reach the NCAA Tournament will be Vanderbilt tonight in the quarterfinals at 9 p.m. inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
MSU has reached the SEC Tournament finals in each of the past two seasons going 6-1. The Bulldogs won the 2009 event in Tampa before falling to Kentucky 75-74 in overtime in last year. Since 1999 only two teams in the conference have reached the semifinals seven times - State and Kentucky.
State is 27-47 all-time at the SEC Tournament and 5-7 against the Commodores at the event.
Vandy won the only meeting between the two schools during the regular season. The Commodores pulled away in the waning moments for an 81-74 victory on Jan. 27 - their first in Starkville since 1993.
Rick Stansbury's squad enters tonight's game with a 17-13 overall record and 9-7 mark inside the league having won four of its last five contest. The Bulldogs are shooting 43.2-percent from the floor and averaging 69.5-points. Mississippi State is hitting 35.9-percent from the outside and 71.9-percent from the free throw line. Their opponents are scoring 69.7 points against them on 41.4-percent shooting.
Senior wing Ravern Johnson continues to lead the Bulldogs in scoring with 17.6 points per game. In his past six games Johnson is shooting 54.9-percent from the floor and 59.1-percent behind the arc. In the earlier meeting with Vanderbilt, Johnson led MSU with 19 points.
Junior point guard Dee Bost is averaging 15.3 points and dishing out 5.9 assists while senior shooting guard Riley Benock is adding 6.3 points.
Sophomore forward Renardo Sidney is putting up 13.7 points and pulling down 7.6 rebounds while senior forward Kodi Augustus is contributing 12.2 points and 7.4 boards.
Vanderbilt comes into tonight's contest with a 22-9 overall record and a 9-7 record against the SEC. The Commodores are coming off a 62-50 win over LSU on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals.
Kevin Stallings' team is shooting 45.9-percent from the field and averaging 76.2 points a game. Vandy is knocking down 37.6-percent from 3-point range and 74.3-percent from the charity stripe. They have outrebounded their opposition by 3.1 a game while surrendering 66.9 points on 40.4-percent shooting.
Sophomore guard John Jenkins (6-4, 215) continues to lead the SEC in scoring with 19.4 points a game. However Jenkins missed the LSU game with a sprained toe but did dress if needed. Jenkins is joined in the backcourt by junior Brad Tinsley (6-3, 210) scoring 10.6 points.
Junior forward Jeffrey Taylor (6-7, 225) is adding 14.7 points and 5.5 rebounds. Taylor led the Commodores with 25 points in the previous game against State. Junior Lance Goulbourne (6-8, 225) is chipping in 6.8 points and 7.3 boards.
Junior center Festus Ezeli (6-11, 255) is putting up 12.8 points and pulling down 6.2 rebounds.
Tonight's matchup will be televised on the SEC Network with Dave Neal, Mark Gottfried and Shannon Spake on the call.