Mississippi St.-Baylor Preview

The Associated Press

Baylor coach Scott Drew and Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury are anything but short on praise for the other's respective program.

Both teams are certainly becoming of some much-deserved acclaim.

On the verge of the best start and longest winning streak in school history, the No. 6 Bears face the surging 15th-ranked Bulldogs in Dallas on Wednesday night.

This is the first Top 25 opponent for Baylor (12-0), though it has quality wins over four teams which have reached double digits in victories - San Diego State, Northwestern, BYU and Saint Mary's. The Bears continued to build their resume with a thrilling 83-81 overtime victory over West Virginia in Friday's Las Vegas Classic championship game.

"It's very obvious we're going to play one of the better teams in the country," Stansbury told the school's official website. "Scott (Drew) has done a terrific job with them and has them playing at a very high level. This will be, no question, our most difficult challenge, task, of the season.

"They don't have many weaknesses right now at all."

The Bears, whose 50.2 field-goal percentage ranks among the top 10 nationally, are paced by Perry Jones III. The 6-foot-11 sophomore is averaging a team-best 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Jones will have a tough matchup in fellow big man Arnett Moultrie, who has blossomed into one of the SEC's most dominant players after transferring from UTEP. Moultrie ranks fourth in the conference at 17.8 points per contest and his average of 11.7 boards leads the league.

"I knew coming out of UTEP he was an outstanding player," Drew said. "I think he's gone to another level.

Mississippi State (12-1) suffered a disappointing 68-58 loss to Akron on Nov. 9 but has since posted 11 consecutive wins by an average of 16.0 points.

The Bulldogs' most notable victories were 69-60 over then-No. 19 Texas A&M on Nov. 17 and 67-57 over then-No. 15 Arizona the following day to win the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. They haven't won 12 in a row since opening 13-0 in 2003-04.

Baylor, meanwhile, is looking to win 13 straight for the first time, having equaled the 2000-01 team for longest win streak and best start at 12-0.

"It's going to be a great matchup," Drew said. "Both (teams) are athletic. Both are very long and talented. I think you are going to see a lot of great plays."

Mississippi State cruised to an 82-67 victory over Northwestern State on Thursday behind Moultrie's 24 points and 14 rebounds, including a career best-tying 11 on the offensive glass.

"I think it had to do with me being 6-foot-11 and very athletic," he said. "It's kind of hard for people to box out. Even when they do, I've got the quickness to get around them."

Thursday's win, though, may have come at a cost. Renardo Sidney, averaging 13.3 points on 68.8 percent shooting over the last four games, strained the patella tendon in his left knee and is uncertain for Wednesday.

Sidney's possible absence could make keeping up with Baylor all the more difficult. Besides Jones, the Bears feature four other players with double-figure scoring averages.

Junior college transfer Pierre Jackson has provided the Bears instant offense off the bench, averaging 13.8 points in the past eight games while going 14 of 24 from 3-point range. He scored a season-high 23 on Friday, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in regulation.

"Pierre is so quick," Drew said. "Pierre has a winner's heart. He will not shy away from taking a big shot. What's most (important) about that is that he makes them."

The Bears are seeking their first win over the Bulldogs after dropping each of the five previous meetings. The teams, though, haven't met since the first round of the 1990 NIT.

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