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UK to give MSU real hoops test

By Staff
Dec. 31, 2001
Mulling over many musings on a Monday morning …
Very few teams ever go into a game as a solid underdog with a 13-1 record, but that is what is going to happen on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. when Mississippi State University hosts the University of Kentucky at Humphreys Coliseum for the Southeastern Conference basketball opener for both teams.
Despite the 13-1 record, MSU is having to fight for respect.
The Bulldogs did go on the road on Saturday and take a hard-fought 77-66 win over a tough Tulane team.
To make things interesting, Kentucky and Tulane meet in Louisville, Ky. on Wednesday, while MSU takes a few days off to get ready for the invasion by the Wildcats.
The game is a big one for State, whose only loss has come to a strong Cincinnati team.
After the UK game MSU hits the road for games at Arkansas and Ole Miss. Those are not three easy games as all for the Bulldogs.
While Ole Miss did have the disappointing loss to George Mason, the Rebels are still 10-2 going into Wednesday's non-conference home game against Lipscomb University (former David Lipscomb) of Nashville. Ole Miss opens league play on Saturday at Tennessee.
Kentucky has a good basketball team, despite an early-season loss to Western Kentucky. The Wildcats played No. 1 Duke strong before falling in overtime. UK had little trouble with Louisville on Saturday to move to 8-2 on the season.
The Bulldogs have been followed by a lot of naysayers so far this season despite their sterling 13-1 mark and this will give MSU a chance to show their own fans, the SEC and the nation that they are for real.
Jackson-based private colleges begin series
Earlier this month three private four-year schools in Jackson announced the beginning of "The Cowboy Maloney" series that each of the coaches hopes brings even more intensity to the baseball rivalries between the schools.
Belhaven College (NAIA), Mississippi College (NCAA Division III) and Millsaps College (NCAA Division III) will play each other three times each with the team with the best record coming away with the "Maloney Trophy."
The series is sponsored by Cowboy Maloney's Electric City Superstores
The first game of the series is set for Feb. 19 between Millsaps and Belhaven.
The idea is a good one and should help make the games between the three schools more interesting.
It is also a plan that could be used locally, especially when you look at the four junior colleges in the area Meridian, East Central, East Mississippi and Jones.
The four already take part in a Rush-sponsored baseball tournament that will be held for the second time this year when MCC hosts the event in February.
It would be nice to see it extended to other sports and have a trophy passed back and forth. Perhaps that is something we will see in the future.
Making early NASCAR predictions
Believe it or not, it is really not that long before Winston Cup racing picks up again.
The Daytona Speedway will be teeming with action in February, with the Budweiser Shootout set for Feb. 10 and the Twin 125s to set to on Feb. 14. That will be followed the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17.
Several racing teams faded down the stretch in 2001, while several others picked up steam.
It would be hard to pick against Jeff Gordon repeating as Winston Cup champion, but something tells me he won't be able to hold on to the title.
While it won't be a popular choice for the fans, look for Tony Stewart to come out on top this season. He ran well late and seems to be getting it together race-in and race-out. If he can just keep his mouth shut and his temper in check, he might have chance.
Another drive to watch is Jeff Burton. He really made a move late in the year and seemed to get better and better. And of course there is always Gordon.
If Dale Earnhardt Jr. can get more consistent on the short and intermediate track he might have a chance.
He will be the favorite along with teammate Michael Waltrip a t Dayton in February. They just run so well on the super speedways that it is hard to pick against them.
My early vote for rookie of the year is Jimmie Johnson. He has a lot of talent and being a teammate of Gordon surely doesn't hurt his chances.
Austin Bishop is Regional Sports Director of the East Mississippi Group and oversees the direction of four sports departments, including The Meridian Star. You can e-mail him at abishop@themeridianstar or reach him by phone weekday mornings at 693-1551, ext. 3234.

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