No. 12 Bulldogs Make Early Season Debut Thursday

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Ranked among the nation's Top 25 preseason teams for the second time in three years, the Mississippi State Bulldogs make their earliest basketball season debut in school history this week by participating in the prestigious Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Birmingham, Ala.

State will open the tournament at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex by taking on Fairfield University out of Connecticut Thursday at 8 p.m. They will then meet the winner/loser of Thursday's other opening-round contest pitting Birmingham-Southern and Alabama A&M on Friday.

Friday game times at the BJCC Arena are slated for 6 and 8 p.m. Tickets for the Birmingham games can be purchased by contacting the MSU Athletic Ticket Office (662-325-2600 or 1-888-GO-DAWGS), the BJCC Arena Box Office (1-800-277-1700), or by ordering online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Returning 11 lettermen, including three starters, from last year's 26-4 NCAA Tournament team, coach Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs begin the 2004-05 campaign ranked 12th in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 wire service poll and 14th nationally in the ESPN/USA Today preseason coaches poll. In claiming their first outright SEC regular-season championship since 1962-63 with last year's 14-2 league mark, the Bulldogs concluded their record-setting 2003-04 hoops campaign ranked eighth nationally in the AP poll and 13th in the season-ending coaches poll.

One of the nation's premier preseason college basketball tournaments, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic features a new look this year with 16 teams from 16 conferences competing at four regional sites hosted by four of the country's top-ranked teams - Syracuse, Memphis, Cal and Mississippi State (in Birmingham). The winners from each site will advance to play in the semifinal and championship rounds, to be held Nov. 18 and 19 at New York's Madison Square Garden, as part of two nationally televised (ESPN2) doubleheaders.

With reigning SEC Player of the Year and Preseason National Player of the Year candidate Lawrence Roberts having to sit out Thursday's season opener against Fairfield due to an NCAA-mandated, one-game suspension (in addition to a broken nose sustained last Thursday and subsequent surgery performed on Tuesday of this week), Mississippi State looks to be paced in Birmingham by senior guard Winsome Frazier and fellow senior Shane Power. Frazier averaged 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and an SEC-best 2.4 steals per game a year ago as a junior, while Power averaged 9.7 points and 4.2 boards per contest, along with shooting a school-record 48 percent from behind the three-point arc, en route to earning 2003-04 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors.

In their lone exhibition contest of the 2004-05 preseason, the Bulldogs claimed an easy 102-54 home victory over the University of PanAmericana of Mexico this past Saturday afternoon. Power led a quartet of double-digit State scorers with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-9 field-goal shooting (4-6 treys) against the Mexican university squad. Senior center Marcus Campbell contributed a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in MSU's 48-point exhibition triumph.

By way of Fairfield, Conn., and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Stags of Fairfield University, guided by seventh-year head coach and 1986 Fairfield alumnus Tim O'Toole, return 10 lettermen, including four starters, from last year's 19-11 team, which finished third in the MAAC with a 12-6 league record. Picked in the preseason by a vote of the league's head coaches to finish tied for second in the conference this season, Fairfield looks to be led by senior center and preseason first-team all-MAAC selection Deng Gai, who averaged 13.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.1 blocks an outing a year ago as a junior. Having both received third-team all-conference recognition this preseason, juniors Terrence Todd and DeWitt Maxwell averaged a team-leading 14.9 and 10.9 points per game, respectively, last season for the Stags.


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