Mississippi State (6-7) at Georgia (6-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 1:45 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stegeman Coliseum (10,523) -- Athens, Georgia. Television: SEC Network, MSG+. Home Record: MSU 5-1, UGA 6-3. Away Record: MSU 0-3, UGA 0-3. Neutral Record: MSU 1-3, UGA 0-2. Conference Record: MSU 1-0, UGA 0-1. Series Record: Georgia leads, 52-50.
GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs take aim at their first three-game winning streak of the season on Saturday afternoon, as they have made the trek to Athens for an SEC showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs.
Mississippi State has been inconsistent this season on its way to a 6-7 record, but things are looking up as it is coming off its first pair of back- to-back wins all season after beating New Orleans on Jan. 3 (97-46), and taking down South Carolina on Wednesday in its SEC opener, 56-54. The Bulldogs have been a different team away from home however, as they have gone just 1-6 combined in road and neutral-site affairs.
After a dreadful 2-7 start, Georgia was able to turn things around with four consecutive wins from mid-December to early-January. It faced a brutal task on Wednesday night in having to play nationally-ranked Florida on the road, and it ended up losing, 77-44, but it has been strong on its home floor this year, going 6-3 at Stegeman Coliseum.
The all-time series between these two teams has been very tight, with Georgia clinging to a 52-50 advantage. UGA took the series lead last year by winning both matchups, including in the first round of the 2012 SEC tournament, 71-61.
Trailing late in Wednesday's matchup, Mississippi State was able to capture the win thanks to clutch play by Craig Sword, who hit the game-winning pair of free throws with under a minute to play, and sealed the win a steal and a transition dunk. Although it shot just 38.8 percent from the floor, MSU played outstanding defense, holding South Carolina under 40 percent shooting from the field while forcing 24 turnovers. Sword finished with 18 points on 6-of-11 from the floor, while Roquez Johnson added 14 points off the bench thanks in large part to an 8-of-10 showing at the foul line. It's easy to see why MSU has had such an up-and-down season when analyzing the numbers, as it scores nearly as many points (62.5 ppg) as it allows (62.6 ppg). Johnson posts a team-high 12.5 ppg, while Fred Thomas is the only other play to score in double figures on a nightly basis with 10.2 ppg, although Sword (9.2 ppg) and Gavin Ware (8.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) are on the doorstep. MSU hasn't been a strong 3- point shooting team, ranking last in the league by making only 26 percent of its long-range buckets, and it has also been hindered by a horrible assist-to- turnover ratio (126-to-227).
Georgia was simply no match for the powerful Gators in its SEC opener, as it was outshot from the field, .527 to .389, in a game it never led. UGA was also poor from 3-point range (1-of-10), and committed more turnovers (19) than it had field goals (14), but it was spared from a truly terrible game by a solid 15-of-19 showing from the foul line. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the only Georgia player to score in double figures with 11 points. The lackluster offensive effort was nothing new for UGA, as its 59.4 ppg ranks last in the SEC, although it has been saved on a few occasions by a strong effort at the defensive end (61.4 ppg). Caldwell-Pope is the league's fourth-ranked scorer with 17.0 ppg, and he also puts up team-highs in rebounding (6.9 rpg) and steals (2.2 spg). Otherwise, consistent performers have been hard to come by for Georgia, as the only other player to average more than six points per contest is Nemanja Djurisic (8.2 ppg).
In a matchup between two of the SEC's least impressive teams, a sluggish bout is likely. Mississippi State is riding high after a couple of wins, but it will have its hands full facing a Georgia squad that has played its best basketball in Athens.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia 64, Mississippi State 58
01/12 10:33:38 ET