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Jackson State (19-12) at Mississippi State (23-11)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 16th, 10:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Humphrey Coliseum (10,500) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: ESPNU. NIT Tournament Record: JSU 1-1, MSU 6-6. Series Record: Mississippi State leads, 3-0.

GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs entertain the Jackson State Tigers in the first round of the 2010 NIT tonight at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. The victor of this games moves on to the second round against the winner of the William & Mary/North Carolina pairing.

The Bulldogs were within a whisker of participating in the Big Dance, but instead suffered a heart-breaking, 75-74, overtime loss to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday. Despite tallying 23 victories and winning the SEC West title, MSU was left out of the field of 65. The Bulldogs, who are the top seed in their region, are making their seventh appearance in the NIT and first since finishing third in 2007.

On the flip side, JSU won the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season champion and therefor received the league's automatic bid to the NIT. The Tigers went a remarkable 17-1 in conference play during the regular season, only to lose their first game in the league tourney. This is the program's second appearance in the NIT and first since going 1-1 in the 1993 event.

In regard to the all-time series, MSU is a perfect 3-0 all-time against JSU and that includes a 71-56 decision in the most recent clash in 2002.

The Tigers really played well at the defensive end of the floor over the final 18 games of the season, holding opponents to just 57.9 ppg and a mere 36.5 percent shooting from the field. Offensively, Garrison Johnson does most of the damage for JSU, as he averages a team-high 17.6 ppg. Tyrone Hanson is a distant second at 11.5 ppg and he also grabs 4.9 rpg. De'Suan Dixon, the team's leading rebounder at 6.5 rpg, rounds out the double-digit scorers with 10.8 ppg.

The Bulldogs have the ability to get the job done at both ends of the court, as they are netting 72.6 ppg and limiting foes to just 38.6 percent shooting from the floor. Jarvis Varnado is one of the top players around and he paces MSU in scoring (13.6 ppg), rebounding (10.3 rpg) and blocks (4.8 bpg). Ravern Johnson nips at his heels with 13.5 ppg and he is a terrific three-point shooter, hitting at a 40.9 percent clip. Dee Bost adds 12.8 ppg and a team- high 5.2 apg to the lineup, while Barry Stewart chips in with 11.7 ppg.

MSU is the more talented squad here and Varnado and company should have no trouble coming away with a convincing victory tonight.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 80, Jackson State 55

03/16 10:47:14 ET