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SEC title up for grabs this week

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
March 1, 2004
Mississippi State University enters the final week of college basketball's regular season shooting for something the program hasn't won in 41 years the outright Southeastern Conference title.
The Bulldogs (23-2, 12-2 SEC) hold a one-game lead over Kentucky (21-4, 11-3 SEC) in the overall conference standings as they enter the final two games of the season this week.
MSU's first test in the season's final days will come against Auburn (13-12, 4-10 SEC) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Humphrey Coliseum. The game will be televised by ESPN.
While the Tigers are tied for last in the Western Division with Ole Miss and Arkansas, Auburn has played strong defense this season. The Tigers are fourth in the league in scoring defense, allowing 63.7 points per game, but the Bulldogs have proven to be a tough offense to handle this year.
MSU is averaging 76.1 points per game, second best in the SEC. The Bulldogs' leading scorer, Lawrence Roberts, who is averaging 17.3 points per game, is tied for fourth in the league in point production with Alabama's Kennedy Winston.
The Bulldogs close the regular season on the road, where the team has posted a perfect 7-0 mark in the SEC.
MSU meets one of the two teams that beat it this season in Alabama (15-10, 7-7 SEC) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Crimson Tide tallied a 77-73 win over the Bulldogs in Humphrey Coliseum on Feb. 21.
With the knowledge that one loss can make the difference between sharing the title, MSU players have talked about making sure they finish the season strong.
Ole Miss will be trying to end a four-game losing streak in the final week of the season.
The Rebels (12-13, 4-10 SEC) haven't won a game since Feb. 14, a 72-68 home win over Auburn.
Ole Miss travels to LSU (17-8, 7-7 SEC) for a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday. The Rebels scored a 53-49 home win over the Tigers on Jan. 21.
Ole Miss has not fared well away from Tad Smith Coliseum in SEC play, posting a 0-7 mark in conference road games.
The Rebels wrap up the season hosting Arkansas (12-13, 4-10 SEC) in a 2 p.m. contest on Saturday. Ole Miss fell to the Razorbacks 86-78 on Jan. 17 in Fayetteville, Ark.
The University of Southern Mississippi may have fallen to DePaul 80-51 last Saturday, but the Golden Eagles (12-13, 5-9 Conference USA) still clinched a spot in the conference's 12-team tournament.
Houston's loss to TCU over the weekend, assured USM in the C-USA Tournament that will be played in Cincinnati on March 10-13.
The Eagles will try to build momentum heading into the conference tournament with a pair of home games to close the season.
USM takes on Tulane (11-14, 4-10 C-USA) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and the Eagles close the season with a 4 p.m. Saturday game against East Carolina (12-12, 4-10 C-USA).
USM has only won one of its last six games and is currently in the mist of a three-game losing streak, the longest of the season.
In Southwestern Athletic Conference action around the state, Mississippi Valley State (20-6, 14-2 SWAC) hosts Grambling State (10-15, 8-7 SWAC) at 7:30 tonight.
The Delta Devils, who have already won the SWAC regular-season crown, close the season with a road game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-24, 1-15 SWAC) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Jackson State (10-14, 8-7 SWAC) takes on Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a 7:30 p.m. home game today.
The Tigers swing through the state of Alabama to close out the season with a pair of road games.
Jackson State meets Alabama A&M (10-14, 8-7 SWAC) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and the Tigers end the season with a 7:30 p.m. Saturday game against Alabama State (10-14, 8-7 SWAC). The three schools are tied for third place in the conference.
Alcorn State (8-17, 7-9 SWAC) closes the season with a pair of home games.
The Braves host Texas Southern (13-12, 9-6 SWAC) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, and they will meet Prairie View A&M (7-17, 7-8 SWAC) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.