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Monday Morning Coffee Break

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01columnists/gswindoll.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="161"> Mississippi State basketball.


With two games left to play in a football season that can't be said to be anything but very, very disappointing, MSU fans, wanting something good to happen, are starting to direct their attention to the basketball team. And, so far, during the first two games, both exhibitions, the team has not disappointed.

Against two pro teams, the CBA Sioux Falls Skyforce and the NBDL Columbus Riverdragons, a team that has 4 players who earned All-American honors in college, MSU won both games in completely different fashions.

Just to show you what kind of talent is on the Riverdragons' roster, three players from last year's Columbus roster were invited to NBA camps this year. One was former Bulldog Tang Hamilton. And two of the current Riverdragons also participated in NBA camps this year. One of those is former Bulldog Derrick Zimmerman.

Against the Skyforce, MSU used its arsenal of offensive weapons to win 107-92, while MSU called upon its defense to win 84-77 in overtime against the Riverdragons.

In the much anticipated debuts of Baylor transfer post man Lawrence Roberts and true freshman point guard Gary Ervin, neither disappointed. Roberts, making 7 of 11 shots from the field, including 1 of 1 from the three-point line, and 6 of 6 from the charity stripe, scored 21 points in just 26 minutes. He also pulled down 9 rebounds, 4 of the offensive kind. Ervin, showing great quickness in his 23 minutes of play, dished out 4 assists, had 2 steals and scored 5 points.

The surprise in the first game was junior swingman Winsome Frazier who scored 21 points, including 5 of 7 three-point shots, and junior center Marcus Campbell, who showed great intensity while tallying 15 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes of play.

In the second exhibition game, against the Columbus Riverdragons, a younger, faster and stronger team than the Sioux Falls Skyforce, MSU had to dig down deep to pull off the victory.

After outscoring the Skyforce 62-41 in the first half of the first game, the Bulldogs led by just 4 points in the first half against the Riverdragons. The Riverdragons, in the second half of the game, outscored the Bulldogs by the same four-point margin to take the game into overtime. MSU outscored them 10-3 in the five minute overtime to win 84-77.

Although most MSU fans were most interested in seeing newcomers Roberts and Ervin, the player that showed the most consistency during the two games was, as expected, senior guard Timmy Bowers, who averaged 22.5 points per game, while recording 7 rebounds per game and dishing out 4 assists per game. Roberts was second in scoring with 19 points per game. He also recorded 9 rebounds per game. Frazier was third with 17 points per game, while leading the Bulldogs in steals with 2.5 per game. Campbell followed him with 16.5 points per game and had a team-leading 9.5 rebounds per game.

After making 39 of 76 shots from the field in the first game, the Bulldogs cooled off in the second game, shooting just 28 of 78 shots. Overall, the team shot 43.5% from the field. As a team, the Bulldogs shot the free throws well, hitting 43 of 56 shots (76.8%). Like they did last year, the Bulldogs showed great rebounding ability, pulling down 108 rebounds, a 54 per game average. Their two opponents, both big, physical teams, averaged 40 rebounds per game.

Although he didn't score many points (14 in the 2 games), senior big man Branden Vincent shot the free throws well, hitting 10 of 12. Not only is making his foul shots important, especially after seeing him only make 51% of them last year, but attempting 6 foul shots a game shows that he is working harder to score. Last year, he only shot a total of 49 free throws in 31 games, an average of 1.6 per game.

While he is still recovering from a knee injury, swingman Shane Power is showing indications that he will be a defensive force this year. Coach Stansbury made note of the fact in his post-game press conference that Shane was in the game in overtime against the Columbus Riverdragons. He also mentioned the crucial steal that Shane made during that time. During the two games, Shane played 12 and 21 minutes, pulling down a total of 9 rebounds. Once he gets his shooting touch back, look for him to also become more of an offensive threat from the perimeter.

After watching those two games, it looks like this team will have one of the best inside-outside offensive games in recent MSU history. The outside shooting looks like it will come from Timmy Bowers and Winsome Frazier, with the inside threats being Lawrence Roberts and from what appears to be a much improved Marcus Campbell. All four averaged in double figures during the first two games. Last year, MSU relied heavily on former Bulldog Mario Austin, especially in SEC play. Basically, how he went was how MSU went during SEC play. Not so, this year.

MSU plays their first regular season game next Saturday at home against Tennessee-Martin. They follow that up with another home game Wednesday night against South Alabama, then go on the road to play Western Kentucky in Bowling Green the following Saturday. After that game, the 'Dogs come back home and play 3 games in 6 games, McNeese State on Monday, Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday and UAB on Saturday. Six games in 15 days. And 5 of those are in the Hump.

See you at the Hump.

Have a great Bulldog week!

Gene Swindoll

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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