for this game

Middle Tennessee-Mississippi St. Preview

Mar 20, 2010 - 10:20 PM Middle Tennessee (25-5) at Mississippi State (19-12), 2:30 p.m. EDT

When the NCAA women's pairings were announced, Mississippi State couldn't help but glance one game down the Dayton Regional bracket and see Ohio State. Again.

If seventh-seeded Mississippi State eliminates 10th-seeded Middle Tennessee State and national scoring leader Alysha Clark on Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Lady Bulldogs would meet Ohio State in the tournament for the second successive season. Plenty of incentive there.

The key, of course, is not looking ahead, as tempting as it may be.

Mississippi State (19-12) starts four seniors, all of whom are eager to win to get another chance at Ohio State. The Lady Bulldogs led the Buckeyes 58-54 with 6:43 to play last year in Columbus, but didn't score again while losing 64-58.

Alexis Rack leads Mississippi State with a 17.7 scoring average, but she won't be the leading scorer on the floor Sunday - that's Clark, who averages 27.5 points.

The 5-foot-10 Clark put on a remarkable performance by scoring 132 points during the Blue Raiders' three Sun Belt Conference victories - 40 against North Texas, 44 against Western Kentucky and 48 against Arkansas-Little Rock during her team's 16th consecutive victory.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt was so impressed by Clark earlier this season, she said, "They have a gold mine in that player."

Last year, the Blue Raiders (25-5) nearly pulled off an NCAA upset of Michigan State - they lost 60-59 in East Lansing. At least this time, they'll get to play a power conference school on a neutral court.