March 11, 2011 6:02:00 PM
--Mississippi State is looking to reach its third straight SEC tournament final. The Bulldogs won the tournament in 2009.
--Vadnerbilt (22-9), No. 3 seed from the East, beat MSU (17-13), No. 2 seed from the West, 81-74 in Starkville on Jan. 27. It was the Commodores'' first win in Starkville in 18 years.
--MSU senior wing Ravern Johnson enters the game on a tear; he has made 39 of his 71 shots in the last six games, while draining 26 of his 44 3-pointers.
--The Bulldogs are 6-1 in the SEC tournament over the last two seasons.
--MSU eliminated Vanderbilt in the semifinals of last season''s tournament.
Vanderbilt and Mississippi State enter tonight''s game with star players fighting knocks.
The Commodores'' John Jenkins, who leads the SEC in scoring at 19.4 points per game, has turf toe and didn''t play in Vandy''s win over LSU on Thursday.
He''s a game-time decision.
MSU''s Dee Bost hasn''t missed a game this season, but he played the final five games of the regular season with Achilles'' and hamstring injuries that limited his lateral movement and the lift on his jump shot.
Said Bost earlier this week: "It''s hurting and I can''t move like I want, but ain''t nothing I can do about it, really."
While Bost is a lock to start, Jenkins'' potential absence from the Vanderbilt lineup could pave an easier road to the semifinals for the Bulldogs.
The Commodores didn''t need Jenkins'' offense against the Tigers, who entered the tournament as the league''s lowest-scoring team.
Still, they shot just 36.4 percent from the floor and made only 3 of 22 shots behind the 3-point arc.
"I''m going to try to come back and play. I don''t know how effective I''ll be," Jenkins said Thursday.
EZELI vs. SIDNEY:
MSU head coach Rick Stansbury lauded Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli''s ability to attack the basket leading up to their regular season matchup and did the same at the beginning of this week.
Ezeli manages 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in just over 23 minutes per game.
The junior had 10 points and six blocks against LSU on Thursday and will face a motivated Renardo Sidney on the block tonight.
Sidney has reached double-figure scoring in five of the last six games and is keen to atone for a lackluster first meeting against the ''Dores, when he played just 13 minutes and finished with six points and five rebounds.
Both he and Ezeli, who made 5 of 5 shots in Vandy''s 81-74 win over MSU in January, were marred by foul trouble in the first meeting. Ezeli played just 15 minutes.
Part of Sidney''s motivation is the fact he addressed much of the controversy in which he''s been involved this season during a press conference on campus earlier this week.
Part of the knock on Sidney this season has been his conditioning, but he''s confident fatigue won''t be an issue tonight or for the rest of the tournament should the Bulldogs advance past Vandy.
"I''m taking this whole week to push myself harder than I''ve pushed myself, because I know they''re going to need me in the long run," Sidney said. "I''m just looking forward to playing in the SEC Tournament."
1. New Hope boys' basketball falls in Class 5A playoffs HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
2. Starkville boys denied return trip to Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. West Lowndes boys earn third straight trip to Jackson HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Tennessee routs No. 3 Mississippi State COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Season opener at Columbus Speedway a success LOCAL SPORTS