MSU to Face Tulane in New Orleans Saturday

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Looking to extend their season-opening winning streak to double figures, the unbeaten Mississippi State Bulldogs (9-0) will take on the Tulane Green Wave (5-3) Saturday afternoon in New Orleans to tip off the 2003 Nokia Sugar Bowl Basketball Classic. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. at the New Orleans Arena, and the contest will precede the 6 p.m. nightcap pitting the LSU Tigers and UAB Blazers. Both games will be televised regionally by FOX Sports Net/Sunshine.

Off to their best start since matching the all-time school standard with an 11-0 start two years ago, coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs received 61 votes in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll to rank second among "others receiving votes" and 27th nationally. With a 9-0 record to date, MSU rates as one of four SEC schools to remain undefeated on the year, joining LSU, Vanderbilt and Kentucky heading into the weekend. Most recently, State posted a come-from-behind 66-61 overtime road win over Santa Clara last Saturday in California. The five-point victory marked MSU's ninth consecutive win on the home floor of a non-conference opponent in a streak that dates back to the 2000-01 campaign. Last month in Bowling Green, Ky., the Bulldogs claimed an 81-75 road triumph at Western Kentucky.

Averaging 80.1 points per game on 47.7 percent collective field-goal shooting as a team through nine games, Mississippi State continues to showcase three different players ranking among the top 16 scorers in the Southeastern Conference. Entering Saturday's Tulane contest needing just four more points to become the 26th member of the school's prestigious 1,000-point club, all-SEC guard Timmy Bowers leads the MSU scoring attack at 16.1 points per game to rank 10th in the league. The senior co-captain from Gulfport also ranks third in the SEC in assists (5.1 apg) and second in made 3-pointers per game (2.6/gm). Preseason SEC Newcomer of the Year candidate Lawrence Roberts continues to rate among the conference's leading scorers (16.0 ppg; 11th in SEC) and rebounders (11.3 rpg; 2nd) after recording his league-leading seventh double-double of the year with 17 points and 12 rebounds at Santa Clara last Saturday. The Wooden Award candidate by way of Baylor University has now totaled 29 double-doubles during his 65-game collegiate career.

Rounding out MSU's quartet of double-digit scorers are juniors Winsome Frazier and Marcus Campbell at 14.6 and 11.3 points per outing, respectively. In addition to standing 16th among the SEC's top scorers, Frazier has taken over the league lead in steals (2.9 spg) after being credited with five swipes in last Saturday's overtime win at Santa Clara. Campbell, who is also averaging 6.2 rebounds and shooting 60 percent from the field on the year, most recently totaled eight points, 10 boards and four blocks against the SCU Broncos.

Out of Conference USA, Tulane University owns a 5-3 record on the year after dropping a 67-48 decision at LSU this past Tuesday in Baton Rouge. The Green Wave also lost at home, 66-63, to Southeastern Louisiana last Saturday. Guided by fourth-year head coach Shawn Finney, Tulane has posted home wins over Southern University, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Loyola of New Orleans, Rice and Northwestern State this season. With all five starters averaging 9.1 points per game or better on the year, the Green Wave is led in scoring by junior guard Ben Benfield, who averages 12.9 points per game and shoots 43 percent from three-point range. Sophomore forward Vytas Tatarunas from Lithuania is the team's best rebounder at 10.3 boards per contest, along with averaging 12.4 points a game. Sophomore center Quincy Davis follows at 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per outing.

Making their second straight appearance in the Nokia Sugar Bowl Basketball Classic, the Bulldogs claimed a 54-45 victory over the fifth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners at last year's doubleheader event at the New Orleans Arena. MSU owns a 9-4 all-time record in Sugar Bowl tournament competition through the years, including team titles in 1982, 1961 and 1958.

In the midst of playing five consecutive games all away from the friendly confines of Humphrey Coliseum, MSU will conclude its non-conference hoops slate by playing at Arkansas-Little Rock of the Sun Belt Conference next Saturday (Jan. 3). Tip-off for the MSU-UALR contest is set for 7 p.m. at the 18,000-seat Alltel Arena. State then begins SEC competition by taking on in-state rival Mississippi, Wednesday, Jan. 7, in Oxford.

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