Looking to finish the 2020-21 regular season in style, Mississippi State started heading that direction this past Saturday when the Bulldogs went to Oxford and defeated instate rival Ole Miss. State will try to keep the good times rolling down the stretch on Wednesday night as the Bulldogs play host to South Carolina.
The Bulldogs and Gamecocks are battling for the second time this year. State won the previous encounter 75-59 on the road earlier this month. Can MSU pull off the season sweep of South Carolina?
To do so, State will have to slow down one of the best duos in the Southeastern Conference – A.J. Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant. Lawson averages 18.3 points per game for South Carolina. Bryant sits at 14.2 per contest.
See below for more information on Wednesday's game including how you can follow along, as well as comments from Howland's pre-South Carolina press conference as he discussed the contest. To watch Howland's full media session, see the video above.
- What: South Carolina (5-11, 3-9) at Mississippi State (12-11, 6-8)
- Where: Humphrey Coliseum – Starkville, Mississippi
- When: 6 p.m. central on Wednesday, February 24, 2021
- TV/Video: SEC Network, Online via ESPN.com/ESPN App
- Radio/Audio: Mississippi State Sports Radio Network (click here for full list of affiliates), online at Hailstate.com and the TuneIn radio app
Comments from Ben Howland's 2-23-21 media session:
Question: What have you seen from Derek Fountain improving defensively?
Ben Howland: “I thought he did a good job. He was really in good help [defense]. He was stunting well and being aggressive with his defense. He still has to get better at blocking out on every possession, but overall has made some strides. I thought he played his best game defensively at Ole Miss.”
Q: What did D.J. Stewart Jr. do well to have a good game in the first matchup this year with South Carolina?
BH: “He scored in all ways. He scored from three, he scored from midrange, he scored at the basket and he scored at the foul line. That’s what he has to do to put together a game of 29 points, which is a career high in an SEC game for him. I think he had four three’s in that game. He really shot it well from three-point land, and that was big. He had a magnificent game on both ends of the floor. He played good defensively. I thought he created some turnovers. He was really fantastic, and we need to have a similar effort out of him tomorrow night.”
Q: What do you expect to see from South Carolina?
BH: “They’ve been shorthanded these last couple of games. They had [Jermaine] Couisnard out for two games with a sprained foot against Ole Miss. He got hurt early in the game, eight minutes in. I’m assuming he’ll be back for our game, and that makes a big difference. He’s a really good player – one of their best players. Then, [Justin] Minaya missed a game. He was back in the last game coming off the bench. I think they’ll be at full strength again.”
“We know how tough they are to play against. Every time we play South Carolina, it’s like a root canal – it’s so difficult because they’re so tough defensively. They change defenses, they’re going to play both man and zone, they press some, they’ll trap some out of their zone and they push the ball really hard. It’s a team that, in terms of KenPom tempo, they’re way up on the list. They really push the issue.”
“They’re playing different this year in that they’re not pounding it inside as much as they have in previous years that we’ve played against South Carolina. It’s a different thing to guard because they play four guards a lot. They really space the floor. Sometimes, [they] play five guards. Sometimes, they’ll have [Keyshawn] Bryant and [Justin] Minaya as the four [power forward] and the five [center]. Those are tough matchups for your bigs.
“It [The Ole Miss win] was a great win for us. We needed that one desperately on the road. We have to try to put together two wins in a row here, and we’ve only done it one time the entire conference [season]. We have to try to put back-to-back games together, in terms of our effort, focus, and really playing well here to win. We know we’re going to have to play really well to beat [South Carolina]. [AJ] Lawson is one of the best players in our league. He’s an all-league player. [Keyshawn] Bryant has had a terrific year. He’s a very difficult matchup. We have our hands full with these guys.”