MSU heads to Atlanta for SEC Tournament

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Fourth-ranked and SEC Champion Mississippi State (25-2, 14-2) travel to Atlanta to participate in this week's SEC Basketball Tournament. Having appeared in back-to-back SEC Tournament championship games the past two years for the first time in school history, MSU will open tournament play Friday night in Game 7 by taking on Vanderbilt at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Georgia Dome. The game will be televised live by JP Sports.

Ranked fourth in this week's AP Top 25 (fifth in the coaches poll) to match their season-high poll position of three weeks ago and marking their highest AP national ranking since 1961-62, the Bulldogs concluded their record-setting regular season in dramatic fashion with Saturday's 82-81 comeback road victory, in which they rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to pull out the thrilling overtime triumph on Timmy Bowers' game-winning baseline basket. With the win, Mississippi State captured its first outright SEC championship since 1962-63, along with setting new single-season school standards for most overall wins (25) and most league victories (14) during regular-season play. Having won four straight games since dropping a 77-73 home decision to Alabama on Feb. 21, State previously strung together an eight-game winning streak following their 67-66 last-second home setback to then-No. 5 Kentucky back on Jan. 13. MSU opened the campaign with 13 consecutive wins.

On the heels of picking up career win No. 125 this past Saturday in Tuscaloosa, sixth-year MSU head coach Rick Stansbury has been named this year's SEC Coach of the Year by The Associated Press. In becoming State's first hoops mentor to earn the league's coaching honor since his predecessor Richard Williams, Stansbury enters postseason competition sporting the second-best SEC Tournament career coaching record of 7-4 (behind Tubby Smith's 9-2 mark) dating back to 1998-99.

Heading into March Madness leading the SEC in scoring offense (77.4 ppg), scoring margin (+11.4; 19th in NCAA), rebounding offense (40.8 rpg) and rebounding margin (+7.9; 3rd in NCAA), while ranking second in field-goal percentage (47.1%) and steals (9.2 spg), the high-powered Bulldogs are ignited by the talented first-team all-SEC tandem of Lawrence Roberts and Bowers. The consensus SEC Player of the Year by both the AP and a vote of the league's coaches, Roberts tops the conference and ranks fourth nationally with 16 double-doubles, while ranking as the SEC's No. 6 scorer (17.1 ppg) and nation's No. 4 rebounder (10.5 rpg). The Houston native and former Baylor transfer was recently named as one of the 20 national finalists for the prestigious John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year honor.

Solidifying MSU's first all-league first-team duo since Erick Dampier and Darryl Wilson of the school's 1995-96 NCAA Final Four contingent, Bowers rates as the current SEC Player of the Week for his game-winning heroics this past weekend against Alabama. The senior team co-captain was also recently named to CollegeInsider.com's 16-man All-America Team in addition to being named the SEC's MVP by the website. Also rating as one of 16 national finalists for the inaugural Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award, Bowers enters this week's SEC Tournament ranked 13th in the league in scoring (15.4 ppg), third in assists (4.7 apg), sixth in steals (1.9 spg) and tied for third in made 3-pointers per game (2.4 treys/gm).

With MSU rating as the only team to have three players ranking among the league's top 20 scorers in SEC games, junior Winsome Frazier hails as the club's third double-digit scorer at 13.5 points per game on the year. The Miami product also leads the SEC in steals (2.3 spg). Junior Shane Power, selected as the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, averages 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds an outing, while shooting a team-high 44 percent from three-point range. Perhaps the "glue" of this year's State unit, senior Branden Vincent contributes 7.1 points a game, while ranking seventh in the SEC in rebounding (7.2 rpg). Off the bench, guard Gary Ervin was selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team.


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