Bob Huggins' squad has opened up with four wins in its first five games. The lone loss on West Virginia's record came against Kent State (70-60), but since then, the team has strung together three straight victories, including a 77-56 rout of Akron earlier in the week.
Rick Stanbury's Bulldogs are also off to a fast start, winning seven of their first eight outings. The one blemish was a 68-58 setback to Akron back in early November. MSU enters this game with a six-game win streak in tow following an 82-59 drubbing of North Texas last weekend.
These two teams have met just one other time. In 2007, the Mountaineers posted a 63-62 in the NIT semifinals.
The Mountaineers have shown the ability to win games at either end of the floor this season, as evidence by a +17.6 scoring margin. The team is netting 79.0 ppg and is connecting on nearly half of its shots (.486). Opponents meanwhile, are being held under 40 percent from the floor and amassing a mere 61.4 ppg. Scoring depth is apparent with four players averaging double figures, but the undeniable leader has been forward Kevin Jones. The 6-8 senior ranks second in the Big East in scoring at 21.0 ppg and paces the league in rebounding at 12.2 rpg. Darryl Bryant (14.4 ppg), Jabarie Hinds (11.8 ppg) and Deniz Kilicli (10.6 ppg) round out the top scoring threats. In the 21-point win over Akron, Hinds scored a game-high 19 points, Jones was once again a beast in the low post with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Bryant and Kilicli chimed in with 11 points apiece.
The Bulldogs are not as explosive at the offensive end of the floor, but the numbers aren't bad either. MSU is averaging 73.2 ppg and doing so on a healthy 46.3 percent shooting. Mississippi State also boasts a +6.9 rebounding margin and is forcing 14.0 turnovers per game. The team boasts of a trio of reliable scorers, led by guard Dee Bost and his 17.0 ppg. Bost also paces the squad in assists (30) and steals (20). He receives help in the backcourt by Rodney Hood, who is putting up 13.0 ppg. Arnett Moultrie has been a force up front and is averaging a double-double with 16.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Moultrie missed two games due to injury, but returned against North Texas and made the Mean Green pay the price, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds. Bost poured in 18 points and doled out five assists, while Hood and Jalen Steele chipped in with 11 points each.