Mississippi State hosts its second game in three nights at 8 p.m. tonight taking on Florida Gulf Coast.
The Bulldogs have five games scheduled over a 10 day span and will travel to compete in the Las Vegas Classic this weekend.
Tonight will mark the first ever meeting between MSU and Florida Gulf Coast on the hardwood. The Bulldogs are 11-3 all-time against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference.
State is off to a 7-2 start to the season having won back-to-back games. The Bulldogs defeated Florida A&M 78-65 Tuesday night behind 16 points from sophomore shooting guard Craig Sword and a first career double-double from redshirt freshman wing Dre Applewhite.
Rick Ray’s roster leads the Southeastern Conference with 9.3 steals per game which ranks 15th nationally. Mississippi State is shooting 46-percent from the field and averaging 71.2 points. The Bulldogs are hitting 29.7-percent of their shots from the outside and 63.5-percent from the free throw line. Their opponents are scoring 65.3 points on 42-percent shooting against them.
Sword continues to pace MSU with 15.3 points and 1.8 steals. In his last four outings, Sword is 29-of-41 shooting with 16 rebounds, 11 steals, nine assists and 85 points.
Sword is joined in the backcourt by freshman point guard I.J. Ready scoring 6.6 points and dishing out 3.2 assists while Applewhite is adding 6.4 points.
Sophomore center Gavin Ware is putting up 10.8 points and pulling down 8.3 rebounds while junior forward Roquez Johnson is contributing 9.2 points and grabbing 4.6 boards.
Florida Gulf Coast enters the contest at 5-5 having lost four of its last five following a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament last season. The Eagles were the first 15-seed to advance to the Sweet 16 in history.
The Eagles are in search of the 200th win in school history. FGCU currently sits at 199-154 since the program began in the 2002-03 season.
FGCU is coming off a 68-66 double overtime loss at South Florida on Tuesday. Junior guard Bernard Thompson (6-3, 166) and junior center Nate Hicks (6-10, 217) set the school’s record as a Division I program with 32 points each in the loss to the Bulls. Hicks also set a single-game record with 19 rebounds.
In his first season in Fort Myers, Joe Dooley’s team is shooting 46.4-percent from the field and scoring 68.5 points. The Eagles have drained 34.1-percent behind the arc and 60.9-percent from the charity stripe. Florida Gulf Coast has outrebounded its opponents by 1.4 surrendering 67.3 points on 43.4-percent shooting.
Thompson tops the team with 15.9 points. He is accompanied in the backcourt by junior Brett Comer (6-3, 192) averaging 14.1 points and junior Jamail Jones (6-6, 215) chipping in 8.2 points.
Senior forward Chase Fieler (6-8, 205) is putting up 13.7 points and grabbing 6.7 boards while Hicks scores 5.2 points and adds 5.9 rebounds.
Tonight’s game will be televised on CSS with Richard Cross and former MSU coach Richard Williams on the call.