Dec. 2, 2005
STARKVILLE, Miss. - After enduring more than 10 hours of travel and covering nearly 2,300 miles Thursday, the Santa Clara University men's basketball team is spending today in preparation mode.
Forgive the Broncos, however, for not preparing exclusively for Saturday's 11 a.m. (Pacific) game at Mississippi State. Monday's first day of final exams is also on the forefront of the players' minds and they are spending the day as true "student-athletes," balancing athletics and academics.
"All of our players are spending the day studying and we have a mandatory study hall scheduled for this afternoon," said SCU assistant coach Sam Scuilli, who oversees the team's academic progress. "We have a very responsible group of guys who are all serious about academic success. So, it isn't a major chore to try to motivate them to prepare for next week's final exams."
There will be no shortage of live coverage of Saturday's game. The contest will be televised by Fox Sports South with veteran Bob Rathbun calling the action. Check local listings for Fox coverage in other areas of the country and on Dish Network or Directv. In the Bay Area, the game will be broadcast on the radio through KNTS-AM (1220) and, worldwide, it can be heard on the Internet at www.SantaClaraBroncos.com. The MSU broadcast will also be available on Sirius Satellite Radio, channel 127.
Following its buzzer-beater 47-46 victory at San Jose State on Tuesday, Santa Clara enters Saturday's game with a 3-1 overall record and one of the country's stingiest defensive units. The Broncos have held three of its four opponents to less than 60 points and rank at the top of the West Coast Conference in field goal defense, limiting opponents to just .347 shooting from field.
Admittedly, it is early in the season, but the current edition of the Broncos have some of the best defensive statistics in the Dick Davey era. In addition to its field goal defense, SCU is limiting opponents to .305 from behind the three-point arc and just 59.2 points per game. The Broncos are also averaging 4.3 blocks per game. All are the best for a Santa Clara team since Davey began as head coach in the 1992-93 season.
Senior forward Travis Niesen, who connected on a driving layup as the buzzer sounded at San Jose State, is the Broncos' scoring leader with a 22.5 per game average. He is also tied with sophomore Mitch Henke and freshman John Bryant in rebounding with a 7.0 per game average.
Mississippi State is 4-2 on the season after defeating the University of New Orleans by a score of 67-59 Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum, affectionately dubbed by MSU as "The Hump."
The Bulldogs are also a defensive-minded team, holding opponents to just .344 from the field and .248 from long range. MSU opponents are averaging just 56.8 points per game, compared to their 62.2 scoring average.
Jamall Edmonson is the team's scoring leader, averaging 14.2 points per game. The Montgomery, Ala. native is also the team's assist leader with 14 andis shooting .800 from the free throw line. Freshman Jamont Gordon (12.3 ppg) and junior Deitric Slater (11.5 ppg) are the only other two Bulldogs who are scoring in double-figures.
"Phil (Cunningham) has seen the most film so far, but we know enough about (Santa Clara) to know this - they are one of the quality teams in (the West Coast Conference)," said MSU head coach Rick Stansbury. "They will be smart. They have one great player in (Travis) Niesen. They will be big and able to shoot it."
The two teams have played just once previously, with the Bulldogs pulling out a 66-61 overtime win on Dec. 20, 2003 at the Leavey Center. The Broncos led 32-20 at halftime and limited MSU to just 11 percent on 2-for-19 shooting from behind the three-point range in the game. However the Broncos shot just 1-for-9 from the free throw line and committed 22 turnovers. Not one Mississippi State player on this year's team played in the game, while Niesen and center Sean Denison each saw action against the Bulldogs.
Following Saturday's game, the Broncos will take the week off for final exams then return to action Saturday Dec. 10 at home against Cal Poly. Tickets are available by calling 408/554-4660 or by clicking here.