Five things to know about MSU-Furman

Published 4:08 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State is set for another tough challenge from a stout mid-major program when Furman visits Humphrey Coliseum on Friday evening.
The Bulldogs (7-3) returned to the win column with an emphatic 79-50 rout of Georgia State, the Sun Belt’s preseason favorite.
State handed out a season’s best 21 assists on 24 made field goals, outrebounded an opponent by double figures for the seventh time on the season and converted on 26-of-30 at the charity stripe.
Furman (7-4) has already knocked off Louisville (80-72 on 11/12) on the road during the non-conference slate. Last time out, the Paladins battled North Carolina to a 74-61 decision on Tuesday.
Friday’s matchup marks “Christmas At The Hump” where fans can receive a free general admission ticket by wearing an ugly Christmas sweater to the game.
The Matchup: Mississippi State (7-3, 0-0 SEC) vs. Furman (7-4, 0-0 Southern)
Where: Starkville, Mississippi – Humphrey Coliseum When: Friday, December 17, 6:00 p.m. CT
1. Heading into this weekend’s action, Mississippi State holds top four marks on the SEC leaderboard in seven categories which include three-point field goal percentage (35.7 – 2nd), free throw percentage (74.6 – 2nd), rebounding margin (+11.8 – 2nd), defensive rebounding percentage (78.2 – 2nd), field goal percentage (46.8 – 3rd), offensive rebounding percentage (36.3 – 3rd) and scoring defense (60.8 – 4th).
The +11.8 rebounding margin also is sixth nationally. The Bulldogs have rated among the nation’s top 20 in rebounding margin during each of the last three seasons.
State sits at No. 22 in the ESPN BPI rankings, No. 41 in ratings and holds the No. 47 spot in the NCAA NET.
2. Mississippi State’s coaching staff led by Ben Howland along with assistant coaches George Brooks, Korey McCray and Ernie Zeigler are in their seventh season together in Starkville during the 2021-22 season.
The Bulldogs coaching quartet is second-longest tenured group at the Power 5 level only behind the West Virginia staff, who is entering its 10th season under Bob Huggins.
3. Last time out, Mississippi State had three players register in double figures during its 79-50 convincing victory over Georgia State.

Iverson Molinar ripped off a game-high 18 points taking only six shot attempts and converted on a 7-for-7 mark at the foul line to extend his season’s opening run to 10 consecutive games in double figures.

D.J. Jeffries matched his MSU career-high with 15 points, while Derek Fountain provided a boost after being inserted into the starting five with a season’s best 10 points coupled with career-highs of nine rebounds, three assists and three steals.

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The Bulldogs tallied a season-high 23 points off the bench courtesy of Cam Carter, Javian Davis and Andersson Garcia. The trio accounted for 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

4. Iverson Molinar is one of three SEC players to score in double figures during every one of his team’s games this season. The list includes fellow All-SEC Preseason First-Team picks in JD Notae (Arkansas) and Jaden Shackelford (Alabama).

Molinar is the only SEC player to rank among the league’s top 5 in points (16.7 – 5th) and assists (4.8 – Tied for 5th). He is one of four Power 5 players to be ranked among his conferences top five in both categories. The list includes Terrell Brown Jr. (Washington – Pac 12), Mike Miles Jr. (TCU – Big 12) and Alondes Williams (Wake Forest – ACC).

He has pumped home at least 15 points and five assists on five occasions. Molinar’s 3.69 assist-to-turnover ratio is second on the SEC leaderboard and 11th in the country. The Panama native also tops the SEC and is fourth nationally with a 95.1 free throw percentage.

5. Mississippi State’s transfer class of Garrison Brooks, D.J. Jeffries, Shakeel Moore and Rocket Watts has amassed 2,728 career points and 125 career games in double figures. Their teams have posted a combined 90-35 record when providing 10-plus points headed by Jeffries’ 26-5 and Watts’ 17-2 marks, respectively.

Brooks holds the top spot among SEC active players with 868 career rebounds and sits sixth among SEC’s active players with 1,383 career points. Moore has posted 2.2 steals per game, which checks in tied for second in the SEC rankings.

“I saw where they were tied at the half, in [North] Carolina, in front of a packed house. They’ve got a really good team. They’re a very hard team to match up against. Furman plays an offense that is very reminiscent of what Richmond does, in that they look for a lot of back cuts. They’ve taken 699 shots from the field so far this season. 369 of them were two’s and 330 were three’s. They’re almost 50-50 in three-point versus two-point attempts. They’re shooting the ball 39 percent from three. So, they’re playing that analytic game that a lot of people do now very effectively.”

“They have their big, [Jalen] Slawson who plays good defense and is a very difficult matchup. He had 33 points against College of Charleston a week ago. He also had 12 assists against Winthrop. They run their offense through him. He’s very good around the basket and can also shoot three’s. Their starting guard [Alex] Hunter had four three-pointers in the first half against North Carolina. He’s shooting 48 percent from three and making four per game. [Mike] Bothwell had 30 in a win on the road against Louisville who we have great respect for.”

“We know how good they are. We’re choosing to play them because we know they’re going to be a good challenge. It’s going to be a very tough game for us. They’re very well-coached and schemed both offensively and defensively. They’ll play all types of defensive formations and push the ball really hard to set up their shooters early. It’s going to be a very hard-fought contest.”

“I knew it wasn’t fun for him [Derek Fountain, not playing as much as he wanted to]. I let him know there was going to come a time where he ended up playing important minutes like there always is. Sure enough, Tolu went out. He had that opportunity the other night [against Georgia State]. That’s just how it works. I had that same conversation with Javian Davis when Tolu came back. Stuff like that is just going to happen. You just have to stay positive and keep working hard. Then, good things will come to you.”

Mississippi State and Furman will meet for the fifth time in a series that dates back over a century to the 1919-20 season. The Bulldogs have won all four previous meetings over the Paladins, the last time an 84-74 victory on Dec. 28, 1970, where Jack Bouldin poured in a game-leading 24 points.

The Paladins were picked to finish second in the Southern Conference preseason poll. Furman has amassed 22.4 wins and five top three SoCon finishes dating back to the 2016-17 season.

Alex Hunter (17.9 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.1 RPG), Jalen Slawson (16.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 3.8 SPG, 2.1 SPG, 2.0 BPG) and Mike Bothwell (15.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.5 APG) are the team’s top three scorers. The trio has accounted for 29 games in double figures on the season headed by 10 outings of 20-plus points.

Bothwell and Hunter have already surpassed 1,000 career points and were named SoCon All-Preseason picks, while Slawson has captured four double-doubles headed by the program’s first triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds at Winthrop (12/07).

Furman’s top performer off the bench has been Garrett Hien (6.9 PPG) since Marcus Foster (7.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG) has been inserted into the starting five during the team’s last six games.

Mississippi State faces its final non-conference challenge before stepping into SEC play when the Bulldogs take on the Big South’s preseason favorite in Winthrop on Tuesday.

Tip time is on-tap for 6 p.m. CT from Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. The game is not televised but will be carried live by the Mississippi State Radio Network powered by Learfield/IMG College.

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