AUBURN - The Auburn women's basketball team (11-7, 4-1 SEC) will attempt to tie its Southeastern Conference win total from a year ago as the Tigers travel to Mississippi State (8-8, 0-4 SEC) for a 7 p.m., Thursday meeting at Humphrey Coliseum.
The Tigers already have four SEC wins this season, nearing the five Auburn had a year ago, finishing the season with a 5-11 mark in league play.
Getting the fifth win will not be easy as the Tigers hit the road. Auburn is 1-1 in SEC road games this season, 3-2 overall in road games.
"It's another road game in the SEC, which is tough, it's tough to play," said Auburn head coach Nell Fortner. "I know Mississippi State is going to be hungry. They are going to play hard and tough at home, so we have to be ready for them."
The Tigers are coming off of back-to-back wins over Ole Miss (85-73) and LSU (65-53). All four of Auburn's SEC wins this season have been in double digits. For her efforts in the two wins last week, Auburn sophomore Blanche Alverson was named the SEC's Player of the Week. She averaged 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 steals in the pair of games.
After losing eight letterwinners and four starters from last season's team, Mississippi State brought in 11 newcomers for the 2010-11 season. The Bulldogs got off to an 8-4 start to the season, but are yet to win in the SEC with a 0-4 league mark.
Auburn and MSU have one common non-conference opponent in South Alabama. The Bulldogs defeated the Jaguars 56-43 in Mobile. So far in SEC play, Mississippi State has fallen to Vanderbilt (65-44), Arkansas (61-56), LSU (72-55) and Kentucky (72-60).
Diamber Johnson leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 11.7 points per game, followed by Mary Kathryn Gover with 11.3 points. Ashley Brown leads the team on the baords with 9.3 rebounds per game.
MSU hits 5.3 3-pointers per game at a 30.1 percent clip. Four players have hit more than 10 this season with Govero leading the way with 31. Porsha Porter has 15, followed by Johnson with 14 and Danielle Rector with 13.
As a team, MSU shoots 37.7 percent from the field. The Bulldogs average 58.8 points per game while holding their opponents to 57.2 per game.
"Mississippi State is very fast - they are a very fast team," said Fortner. "They play good defense, they are big inside with the eligibility of Catina Bett this year. Then they have Mary Kathryn Govero, a senior who is a great 3-point shooter on the perimeter. So, they can beat you in a lot of ways."
After a difficult 1-4 start to the season, Auburn has rallied to go 10-3 in its last 13 games, including a five-game winning streak. The Tigers have lived off their defense this season, averaging 9.9 steals and 4.1 blocks per game. Auburn opponents average 19.5 turnovers per game with the Tigers scoring an average of 20.3 points per game off of turnovers.
Alverson leads the team with 11.9 points per game, followed by senior Alli Smalley with 11.8 per game. Smalley and Alverson have combined to average 3.5 3-pointers made per game.
Jordan Greenleaf pulls down a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game, along with her 10.1 points. Sophomore Morgan Toles averages 8.2 points and 5.7 assists per game, good enough for first in the SEC.
The Mississippi State game is also a homecoming for a pair of Tigers. Junior Chantel Hilliard is a native of Biloxi and her older sister Chalandra played at MSU from 2003-06. Fortner is also a Mississippi native. She was born in Jackson, but her family calls Laurel home now.
"I do get to see a lot of family when we play at Mississippi State," said Fortner. "I have a niece and two nephews that go to school there, and then my sister and her husband live close by. I'll have a lot of family there, but the only thing I worry about is the game and just trying to get another win."