Battle of the Bulldogs Today

ATHENS -- Lawrence Roberts' past is a nightmare, but the Mississippi State junior is moving on and looks to be leading the Bulldogs to a dream season.

Lawrence Roberts transferred to Starkville this season after spending the last two years at Baylor. He and the rest of the Bears came under national scrutiny this summer after teammate Patrick Dennehy was found slain and another teammate, Carlton Dotson, was charged with the killing.

"You see this stuff on TV," Roberts said. "You never imagine you could be in this situation."

Roberts and Dennehy had little more than "a basketball relationship," Roberts said, but he still can remember the phone call he received saying Dennehy hadn't shown up to lift weights.

"I didn't really think much of it until I got off the phone and started thinking, 'Would I go that long without calling somebody,'" Roberts said.

Dennehy disappeared in June, and his body was discovered on July 25. Baylor coach Dave Bliss, who eventually resigned, was later taped asking players to lie and indicate to authorities that Dennehy was involved with drugs.

Roberts hasn't talked with Bliss since leaving Baylor but would like to in order to offer his former coach encouragement and ask questions which remain on his mind, he said. Due to the outrageous nature of the situation at Baylor, any Bears' player who wished was allowed to transfer without penalty.

Georgia, which plays at Mississippi State today at 1 p.m. in a game that will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot, talked with Baylor guard John Lucas III about coming to Athens. Lucas eventually transferred to Oklahoma State.

Georgia coach Dennis Felton said he didn't have enough time to get to know Lucas and, therefore, never felt comfortable enough to bring Lucas to his team.

"The timing of it was tough," Felton said. "I didn't know a great deal about John personally, and those things mean a lot to me. It was kind of a rush job, and it didn't quite reach the confidence level I would have liked."

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said he only had about a day and a half to get to know Roberts and suggested Felton wouldn't have been so picky if he needed Lucas as bad as Stansbury needed Roberts. Stansbury was trying to replace post player Mario Austin, who left school early for the NBA.

"If he didn't have Rashad Wright coming back, he probably wouldn't have been quite so concerned getting to know (Lucas)," Stansbury said. "I didn't have anybody coming back. I needed a big guy who could come in and play, and I knew (Roberts) could play.

"Did I talk to every aunt and uncle and every girlfriend? No." Roberts, who led Baylor in scoring and rebounding both years he was there, considered Mississippi State and Arizona but felt more comfortable in Starkville, he said.

"It's like going to try on shoes. The fit was extremely great," he said. "I saw myself filling (Austin's) shoes and exceeding those levels."

Stansbury said Roberts has proven to be everything he hoped for off the court, and his contribution on the court has been obvious. The 6-foot-9 junior leads the Bulldogs in scoring (16.5 ppg), rebounding (10.8 rpg) and shooting percentage (56.8 percent).

"Roberts maybe flew under the radar screen a little bit," said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "I don't think that people really understood how good Lawrence Roberts is. He's been better than advertised."

Roberts has achieved his goal of exceeding Austin's impact, Donovan said.

"Austin was a low-block player so you always knew where he was at. Roberts can beat you in a lot of different ways," said Donovan, whose Gators gave up 21 points and 14 rebounds to Roberts. "He adds another dimension to their team."

With Roberts leading the way, Mississippi State is in first place in the SEC West (4-1) and has the best overall winning percentage of any conference school (15-1). And, with each victory, Mississippi State is leading Roberts out of his painful past.

"It's hard to leave something like that behind," he said. "When I'm on the court playing basketball, that's the best thing."

Lawrence Roberts
Forward
6-9/235 pounds
Major: Sports communication
High school: Lamar (Houston, Texas)
High school honors: Averaged 28 points, 18 rebounds as senior ... scored 58 points in a game ... Considered a top 20 power forward
prospect in nation
College honors: Averaged 16 points and 9.3 rebounds in two years at Baylor ... Set Big 12 freshman scoring record ... Two-time, second-team
All-Big 12.
FYI: Nephew of ABC and ESPN sports commentator Robin Roberts

Georgia vs. No. 19 Mississippi State
1 p.m./Humphrey Coliseum (Starkville, Miss.)
Broadcast: JP-TV
Records: Georgia 9-6 overall, 1-3 SEC; Mississippi State 15-1, 3-1 SEC
Coaches: Georgia -- Dennis Felton (9-6, first season); Mississippi State -- Rick Stansbury (115-61, sixth season)
Mississippi State starters: G Timmy Bowers, 6-2, Sr. (15.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Winsome Frazier, 6-4, Jr. (12.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Branden
Vincent, 6-8, Sr., (6.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), F Lawrence Roberts, 6-9, Jr. (16.5 ppg, 10.8 rpg) F Shane Power, 6-5, Jr. (7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg).
Georgia starters: G Rashad Wright, 6-3, Sr. (14.5 ppg, 3.1 apg); G Levi Stukes, 6-1, Fr. (9.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F Damien Wilkins, 6-7, Sr. (12.5
ppg, 5.9 rpg); F Chris Daniels, 6-7, Sr. (10.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg); F Jonas Hayes, 6-7, Sr. (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: Mississippi State looks like the best team in the league. Its only loss of the season was a 67-66 loss against Kentucky, which hit a
buzzer beater to get the win. Mississippi State has already won three road games in the SEC, including a 79-68 thumping of Florida on
Wednesday. Still, Georgia coach Dennis Felton is eager for the game and excited about his team's effort in a 45-42 loss to Alabama on Wednesday. "I'm looking forward to it, especially after we were able to put two conference games together in terms of consistency and effort," Felton said. "I was thrilled with the way we fought from beginning to end." Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is wary of Georgia's experience. "I think Georgia has already proven they're capable of being as good as anyone in this league or in the country on a given night," he said. "When those four (seniors) can stay out of foul trouble and play emotionally at another level ... it's been proven they are as good as
anybody in this league."

Next up: Georgia at LSU, Wednesday, 8 p.m.

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