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Rebels, Dogs get set for round two

By By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Feb. 14, 2001
Even bad seasons have a way of turning into decent ones when a team completes a sweep of its biggest rival.
Such is the opportunity facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who will try to shake off their recent struggles when they travel to Oxford tonight to take on the 16th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels in what promises to be anything but a Valentine's Day lovefest.
Tip-off at Tad Smith Coliseum is set for 7 p.m.
The Bulldogs (12-9, 3-7 in the Southeastern Conference) have been somewhat schizo-phrenic during a rigorous road stretch that has included four of their last five games.
Rick Stansbury's squad is locking horns with its third straight conference divisional leader, having knocked off then-SEC West front-running Alabama and losing to SEC East-leading Kentucky a week ago.
MSU is bidding to snap an 11-game SEC road losing skid, MSU's most recent road win in league play was a 61-59 triumph over the Rebels last season in Oxford.
MSU's 79-69 victory over the Rebels at Humphrey Coliseum on Jan. 27 puts the Bulldogs in position for the second consecutive season sweep of Ole Miss.
State also turned that trick in 1993-94 and 1994-95. In the Starkville contest, rough play was at a premium as 57 fouls were whistled. MSU guard Derrick Zimmerman likened the State/Ole Miss series to another popular sport.
But the solid money has to be on the Rebels (19-4, 7-3), whose shooting percentage has improved greatly over the past 2 1/2 weeks. And in doing so, the Rebels have won four straight, including an impressive 10-point win over the then 10th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.
That victory over a packed Tad Pad vaulted the Rebels into first place in the Western Division. But, even though they've won four straight, it's another streak of four that Barnes is more worried about about. We've got to concentrate more on playing the game,'' Barnes said. We've got to do a better job of being smart and playing intelligent against those guys.''
Individually, the Bulldogs continue to be led in scoring by senior forward Tang Hamilton, who ranks 18th among the SEC's scoring leaders (13.0 ppg) and 16th in rebounding (6.5 rpg).
Also averaging in double figures for MSU are senior guard Antonio Jackson (12.7 ppg), junior center Robert Jackson (11.7 ppg) and junior swingman Marckell Patterson (10.9 ppg).
Rod Barnes' Rebels are paced by senior forward Rahim Lockhart, who tops the club in both scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg). Freshmen Justin Reed and Aaron Harper average 11.0 and 10.2 points per game, respectively.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at rdark@meridianstar.com.

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