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By MATTHEW STEVENS
With everything going on off the court, it may be more difficult than normal for Mississippi State to concentrate on the task at hand against the Tennessee Volunteers on the road tonight.
The Bulldogs (14-13, 6-7 in SEC play) come in to Thompson Boling Arena in Knoxville trying to shake off a disappointing upset loss at home to LSU Wednesday that ended the Tigers 10-game losing streak in the Southeastern Conference.
The loss at Humphrey Coliseum mixed with an Arkansas upset of No. 23 Kentucky on the same night puts the Razorbacks (17-10, 6-7) in a tie with MSU for the second seed in the Western Division leading into this weekend where thereâs three regular season games to play.
âIt doesnât get any easier from here thatâs for sure,â Stansbury said. âAnd it never is easy winning on that road in this league.â
In that same game against LSU, Stateâs play-by-play broadcaster Jack Cristil, whoâs been behind the microphone with MSU sports for 58 years, announced his immediate retirement following the game in Knoxville. Fans worldwide can tune in and listen to his final call of Bulldog action free of charge on Maroon to the Max by clicking on the audio link associated with the MSU-UT game on the schoolâs website.
In addition to the regular network stations, including locally on French Camp's WFCA-FM 107.9, the 5 p.m. contest can be found on XM Radio at Channel 200 and on Sirius Radio at Channel 213.
"All good things, as they say in the trade, must come to an end sooner or later,â Cristil said on his postgame show Wednesday, after MSU lost to LSU 84-82. âIt has been one genuine pleasure to be associated with such a magnificent university such as this, with its faculty, students and Mississippi State family.â
On the floor Stateâs player rotation has been cut down again with the season-ending injury to freshman guard Jalen Steele after he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee a game before the Knoxville, Tenn., was supposed to return home for the first time since signing with Mississippi State.
He will have surgery in about two weeks and according to MSU officials, the recovery time is expected to be five to six months.
Steele, will be replaced in the starting lineup by senior Ravern Johnson. The Lyon product leads the Bulldogs with his 17.0 scoring clip, while his 65 3-pointers are fourth in the SEC.
The Volunteers (17-10, 7-6) are certainly dealing with ongoing off-the-court issues as the Notice of Allegations released Wednesday revealed the NCAA enforcement staffâs interpretation of half-truths, lies and violations committed within the Tennessee menâs basketball program.
However, it is still unknown what the consequences will be as determined by the NCAA, and how they might affect coach Bruce Pearlâs future.
Hamilton has since said that UT could retain Pearl even if the NCAA suspends Pearl for a year.
Â âItâs our intention to keep him,ââ Hamilton said on Feb. 16. âUnless thereâs something (severe violation) out there weâre unaware of.ââ
UT has 90 days to respond in writing to the allegations â 10 basketball-related and nine major â that were detailed in the 26-page report.
UT will appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on June 10-11 in Indianapolis. The committee would then make the conclusions on the violations.
On the floor, the Volunteers are led by one-time MSU verbal commit Scotty Hopson and his 17.4 points scoring clip, followed by Tobias Harris 14.2.
If MSU can win its three game of the season away from Starkville, it will be their first win at Tennessee since 1999.