MSU to Face the Columbus (GA) Riverdragons

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State Bulldogs hit the floor for their second and final exhibition basketball contest of the 2003-04 preseason Saturday evening by playing host to the Columbus (Ga.) Riverdragons of the National Basketball Development League. Tip-off time for MSU's exhibition hoops finale is set for 7 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum, and the contest will be open to the public with no charge for admission.

Saturday's exhibition game against Columbus will serve as a homecoming for two members of the Riverdragons squad. Jeff Malone, a former MSU all-American who ranks as the school's all-time scoring leader with 2,142 career points, is beginning his third season as head coach of the Columbus team. In addition, two-time all-SEC guard and 2003 NBA second-round draft pick Derrick Zimmerman returns to campus after completing his State career this past spring as the school's all-time leader in career assists (514) and career games played (127). Selected as the 40th pick overall by the Golden State Warriors in this year's NBA Draft, Zimmerman participated in NBA training camp with both the Warriors and the Detroit Pistons before being selected in last week's NBDL Draft by the Riverdragons.

Coach Rick Stansbury's new-look Bulldogs passed their initial preseason test last Saturday by claiming a convincing 107-92 exhibition homecourt victory over the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Continental Basketball Association. As a team a week ago, MSU shot 51 percent from the field, 43 percent from the arc and 80 percent from the line, in addition to maintaining a commanding 57-34 rebounding advantage over the visiting CBA team. Individually in their 15-point, preseason-opening triumph, the Bulldogs were paced by a trio of players with 20 or more points in the scoring column. Senior team co-captain and reigning all-SEC guard Timmy Bowers led the scoring parade with 25 points, while backcourt mate Winsome Frazier and preseason Wooden Award candidate Lawrence Roberts tossed in 21 points apiece for State. Junior center Marcus Campbell contributed a double-double with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in last week's winning effort.

Set to begin their third season in the National Basketball Development League, the Columbus Riverdragons posted a 23-27 record and tied for fifth place in the league standings last season. During the inaugural NBDL campaign, the Malone-guided Columbus club finished third in the league and advanced to the NBDL Semifinals in 2001-02. Slated to begin the upcoming season at Huntsville next Friday, Nov. 21, the Riverdragons' current 12-man roster also features former SEC standout guards Ezra Williams and Derrick Bird of Georgia and Auburn, respectively, along with former Maryland star and NBA forward Terence Morris.

Beginning its third season of competition as the NBA's minor league, the NBDL presently includes the Fayetteville (N.C.) Patriots, North Charleston (S.C.) Lowgators, Huntsville (Ala.) Flight, Roanoke (Va.) Dazzle, Asheville (N.C.) Altitude, and Columbus (Ga.) Riverdragons. All six NBDL teams will be in preseason action over the next 10 days taking on NCAA Division I basketball programs in seven exhibition contests. The NBDL's "Back to School" tour begins this Friday when Fayetteville visits Michigan. Next week, Charleston takes on Wisconsin on Monday, while three games (Roanoke at Maryland, Huntsville at Purdue, and Asheville at Missouri) dot Wednesday's schedule. Asheville will then travel to Louisville for a Nov. 23 exhibition contest to conclude the NBDL's seven-game, 10-day barnstorming tour of some of the nation's top collegiate basketball programs.

Mississippi State, the defending champions of the SEC's Western Division, will begin its 92nd season of collegiate basketball competition on Saturday, Nov. 22, by playing host to the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks of the Ohio Valley Conference. Tip-off time for the Bulldogs' regular-season opener is set for 7 p.m. at MSU's Humphrey Coliseum. State will also entertain South Alabama in Starkville on Wednesday, Nov. 26, before hitting the road for the first time during the new campaign by taking on Western Kentucky University at refurbished E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky., where the Hilltoppers presently own the nation's longest current homecourt winning streak in NCAA Division I basketball at 39 consecutive games.

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