The Maroon and White arrived a couple of days early in San Francisco for some sightseeing but were scheduled to work out Thursday and Friday before the match between the teams representing the SEC and the West Coast Conference."> The Maroon and White arrived a couple of days early in San Francisco for some sightseeing but were scheduled to work out Thursday and Friday before the match between the teams representing the SEC and the West Coast Conference.">

Bulldogs take perfect 8-0 mark to California

Making their third trip to the "Gold Rush" state of California since Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury took over the helm six years ago, the undefeated Bulldogs put their perfect record on the line Saturday at Santa Clara.<P> The Maroon and White arrived a couple of days early in San Francisco for some sightseeing but were scheduled to work out Thursday and Friday before the match between the teams representing the SEC and the West Coast Conference.

Meeting for only the second time, the first engagement being in postseason play, the two teams renew the brief series at Santa Clara, Calif. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m. (Starkville time) at the Leavey Center Arena.

"Santa Clara's very good at home," said Stansbury, who has guided the Bulldogs to over 100 victories in his first six seasons in Starkville.

"It's a great challenge but a good opportunity for us at the same time," he said.

In the only meeting between the two teams, the Maroon and White prevailed, 75-67, in the first round of the NCAA West Regional at Boise, Idaho in March of 1995. The Dogs, then under head coach Richard Williams with Stansbury serving as an assistant, went on to win the West Regional, downing Utah 78-64 before falling to eventual National Champion UCLA at Oakland, Calif.

Mississippi State (8-0) closed out five straight games within the state Tuesday night, turning back the University of New Orleans Privateers, 77-59, before an excellent turnout at the BancorpSouth Center in Tupelo, Miss. The Bulldogs best start under Stansbury since he took over the program for the 1998-99 campaign, was 11-0 in 2001-02, a season that saw the Dogs win the SEC Tournament Championship and advance to the second round of the NCAA Midwest Regional at Dallas, Tex.

On the heels of the impressive win over the Privateers before departing for the West Coast, Stansbury said he thought playing at Tupelo was a very positive thing.

"I think it was great for the fans and a great experience for our team. We appreciate all the fans coming out," he added

The Bulldogs twice had to fight off the Privateers in the second half before a crowd of 5,388 at the sparkling BancorpSouth Center, the second half of a doubleheader that saw MSU coach Sharon Fanning's Lady Bulldogs post an impressive 94-61 win over Tennessee-Martin in the opening contest.

Ironically, senior walkon Dennis Buse, a Tupelo product, capped the scoring for the Bulldogs with a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer which had to be heart-warming for everyone.

Down the stretch, junior center-forward Lawrence Roberts made play after play as did several others to keep everything under control in a very competitive contest.

The 6-8 Roberts had 15 points, 11 coming in the second half, while posting his sixth "double-double" of the season and 28th of his career as he also pulled down 11 rebounds.

MSU's Winsome Frazier had a team-high 16 points. He was 5-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-7 from behind the arc.

Timmy Bowers had 13 points with three treys while Shane Power added 10 points. Seven-foot center Marcus Campbell had eight points, including a clutch basket down the stretch when the Privateers had pulled to within 11 points at 50-39.

Branden Vincent hit the boards hard with six rebounds and also came up with three steals, matched by Roberts. The Dogs, who outrebounded the Privateers 39-35, had 12 steals as a team.

Freshman Gary Ervin had a good game with seven points and five assists. Bowers paced MSU with a game-high eight assists.

Stansbury said he thought the Bulldogs played in spurts, pointing out Monte Towe's New Orleans Privateers employed a lot of zone, probably just to slow the game down.

"We have to learn and again it's a good experience for our kids to come out and find a way to win a game."

Making a bid to enter the top 25 for the first time this season, the Dogs now have to get ready to come out and play a "very good" Santa Clara team. MSU has been receiving votes all season but has not yet broken into the elite field.

The Maroon and White had a full day of sightseeing planned in the "Cable Car City" upon arrival, while bringing along its perfect 8-0 record, the same mark the Dogs compiled in Stansbury's first year at the helm.

In Mississippi State's first appearance in California under Stansbury, the Bulldogs had their eight-game win streak snapped by Southwestern Louisiana, 60-58, before bouncing back to defeat Eastern Kentucky, 75-62, in the Golden Bear Classic in Oakland, Calif., to run their record to 9-1 on the year.

The Dogs lost to No. 1-ranked Stanford, 76-56, in the Pete Newell Challenge at Oakland, in the 1999-2000 season, while dropping a tough, 83-76, overtime decision at California to open the 2000-01 campaign in the TiVo Preseason NIT.

Slowed by an injury to one of its top players, Santa Clara coach Dick Davey's Broncos are 6-3 after dropping a 94-71 decision to Oregon Wednesday night.


Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at sdnsport@netdoor.com


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