It could be an eventful day for Mississippi State fans who'll get an opportunity to meet new MSU head football coach Sylvester Croom at halftime of the MSU-UAB contest at The Hump.
Croom will return to Green Bay for one of the NFL's oldest and most intriguing matchups in the NFL between the Packers and the Chicago Bears Sunday at historic Lambeau Field.
UAB (3-0) raced past Birmingham-Southern 90-67 in its last outing Wednesday night at Birmingham led by three players in double figures. Ronell Taylor had 15 and Gabe Kennedy and Maurice "Mo" Finley 12 points each.
A trapping defense employed by UAB coach Mike Anderson forced 28 Birmingham-Southern turnovers which the Blazers gladly accepted.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury doesn't question that UAB has an outstanding team.
"They're picked as high as second in their league (C-USA)," noted Stasnbury. "It's going to be a challenge. They're very good.
"We've had three games in five days and it'll be four games in eight days," pointed out the Bulldogs' sixth-year head coach who hit the century mark (100-60) in his first five seasons in Starkville.
Mississippi State will put its perfect record on the line against the Blazers who hold a 4-2 lead in the brief series. The Bulldogs defeated UAB 68-52 in the last meeting, Jan. 2, 2003, in Birmingham.
It took Mississippi State the better part of the first half to get warmed up in its last outing Wednesday night against Louisiana-Monroe, but once the Dogs did, they cruised, rolling to a 76-52 decision despite having played the prior Saturday on the road at Bowling Green, Ky., and Monday at home.
There were five ties in the first half before senior MSU forward Branden Vincent hit a pair of free throws and Winsome Frazier, who scored a game-high 19 points, got a layup off a beautiful pass from Timmy Bowers to put the Maroon & White up for good with just over five minutes remaining before intermission.
In the second half, the Bulldogs came out playing inspired basketball from the onset and it was Frazier who ignited the onslaught.
"We were a little sluggish in the first half," said Frazier, the only player in double-figures at the intermission for either team with 10 points.
"We knew we had to get going in the second half," said Frazier, who scored just about every way possible - driving layups, tip-ins, dunks, from the outside, and connected on his only free throw.
"Winsome (Frazier) played awfully well," acknowledged Stansbury. "He gives you great energy and I thought Timmy Bowers really stepped it up in the second half."
Bowers, who had nearly as many assists (7) as points (9), nailed a 3-pointer followed by a 3-point play by Frazier as MSU expanded its lead to 54-35, a 19-point advantage midway the final stanza.
Frazier and Lawrence Roberts lit up the scoreboard to begin the second half. Following Frazier's basket to open the scoring, Roberts scored on a jumper, who by then was well on his way to another "double-double" which is becoming commonplace for the smooth 6-9 forward-center.
Roberts finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, 10 coming on the defensive end. The Houston, Tex., product capped a 11-2 run with a 3-pointer and a dunk, receiving the ball on a behind-the-back pass from Frazier to the delight of crowd.
The Bulldogs had good ball movement in their up-tempo style. On one sequence, Frazier whipped a pass to Vincent who in turn got the ball to Marcus Campbell for a basket and a free throw for a 57-35 lead.
"We showed a lot of toughness and maturity especially in the second half, playing three games in five days," noted Stansbury.
"We were sluggish in the first half. It's was expected, but not accepted. Our defense got us going in the second half," he said.
Junior transfer Shane Power of Iowa State hit a layup with 6:38 remaining as the Dogs took their biggest lead of the game, 69-41, a 28-point margin.
Campbell, slowed by a sinus condition, just missed a "double-double" with 13 points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes on the floor. Vincent had seven points and six rebounds with two blocks, and Power scored seven points.
"We got started a little slow but we got it going," Campbell, the Dogs 7-0 center who has trimmed up and is definitely more active on the floor. "UAB's a good team and we have to be ready to play," said Campbell, one of "Rick's Rowdies" favorite Dawgs.
MSU freshman forward-center Piotr Selmach (6-9) of Kamien Pomorski, Pol., had two baskets, one a two-step drive to the basket from the top of the key, and the other the result of his quick hands underneath the bucket.
Freshman point guard Gary Ervin 5-11 of Brooklyn, N.Y., a talented and exciting young player, scored a basket while Lincoln Smith had a free throw and freshman Dietric Slater, while not scoring, was active on defense for the Dogs.
Mississippi State shot 42.9 percent from the field (30-of-70) while holding UL-Monroe to 28 percent (21-of-75). The Dogs held the Indians to 21 points in the second half and 8-of-41 from the field.
The Bulldogs close out the homestand Saturday, Dec. 13 with a 7 p.m. tip-off against Xavier at Humphrey Coliseum.
NOTES: The Mississippi State University Athletic Department has announced that all youth, high school age and under, may purchase a half-price ticket to Saturday's game against University of Alabama-Birmingham, as well as next Saturday's (Dec. 13) contest with Xavier. Tickets will be available at the coliseum ticket office two hours prior to tip-off.
Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page.