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January 27, 2013

Ole Miss preview

In-state foes renew their hardwood rivalry Sunday as Mississippi State hosts Ole Miss in a 2 p.m. showdown at Humphrey Coliseum.

Sunday's contest will be broadcast on WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3. HailStateTV subscribers can access the live video and audio streams through www.hailstate.com/hstvlive. After the game, fans can join MSU players courtside for a meet and greet session.

This matchup will mark the 84th meeting between the two squads. The Bulldogs have won five straight in the series and are undefeated at home against the Rebels going back to 2008.

"I know how important this rivalry game is to both schools," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer, who will be coaching his first game in the rivalry, said. "Our kids have had two really good days of practice, so I think we will be ready to go."

MSU (8-11, 0-6) enters the game coming off an 81-33 setback against No. 16 Texas A&M. Martha Alwal scored 12 points and collected 10 rebounds, earning her ninth double-double of the season. Jerica James also added 10 points for the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss (8-11, 1-5) picked up its first SEC win of the year on Thursday by defeating Florida 88-81 in Gainesville. Valencia McFarland recorded a game-high 24 points for the Rebels, as they made an astonishing 9 of 10 3-pointers in the opening half.

Last season provided two thrilling new chapters in the rivalry. The Bulldogs won a tight 51-46 decision in Oxford with a stellar defensive performance. The return trip to Starkville provided even more excitement, as Diamber Johnson's three in the closing seconds of regulation sent the game to overtime. The Bulldogs gained the upper hand in the extra period to win 53-50.

Alwal looks to be a key for the Bulldogs in the contest. The sophomore leads the SEC in free throw percentage at 86.7 percent and in double-digit rebounding games with 11. The Worthington, Minn. native is also second in the league in rebounding (9.5) and tied for second in blocked shots (2.2).

Sophomore Kendra Grant paces the Bulldogs in scoring with a 12.2 average.

The Bulldogs will need a strong defensive effort against an Ole Miss squad that is averaging nearly 69 points per game overall, but 70.5 in SEC play.

"Ole Miss is a quick, athletic team that can attack the rim but also stretch the floor and shoot the 3," Schaefer said. "They have come a long way this season. It is difficult to win in the SEC, but to go and win at Florida is very challenging. They might not have won a lot of games, but they are a very good team offensively."

Tia Faleru leads the Rebels in scoring with 15.8 points a game. Valencia McFarland (13.2) and Diara Moore (11.2) also average double-digit point totals for acting head coach Brett Frank's squad.


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