Bowers thrives as senior
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
March 17, 2004
STARKVILLE Timmy Bowers' final season as a Mississippi State University Bulldog started on a bleak note.
No sooner had the Bulldogs wrapped up the 2002-03 season, in which they won the Southeastern Conference Western Division Championship and made a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, than the 2003-04 season looked as if it was falling apart.
Two-time All-SEC forward Mario Austin, who led the Bulldogs in scoring last season with 15.5 points per game, opted to turn pro following his junior season.
MSU's front court took another hit when McDonald's All-American Travis Outlaw, a signee from Starkville High School, decided to enter the NBA draft and forgo college.
The Bulldogs were also left reeling from the graduation of two-year starters Derrick Zimmerman, the squad's point guard, and forward Michal Ignerski.
And just for good measure, the team's second-leading rebounder, forward Ontario Harper, learned he would miss the entire season following corrective surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Austin's departure, Harper's injury and the graduation of Zimmerman and Ignerski left Bowers as the team's lone returning starter, and he was coming back to a team that lost its top signee in Outlaw.
As just one of two seniors on the team, along with forward and fellow co-captain Branden Vincent, Bowers found himself in a new position point guard and with a larger leadership role than he ever had on the team.
MSU quickly found reinforcements and reserve players stepped into bigger roles on the team with ease this season.
The Bulldogs bolstered their front court with Baylor transfer Lawrence Roberts. The 6-foot-9, two-time All-Big 12 forward was even better than advertised.
Roberts, who was cleared by the NCAA to transfer without having to sit out a year, was named the SEC Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, after averaging 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Vincent and guard Winsome Frazier both stepped up their games as starters averaging seven and 13.5 points per game, respectively.
Vincent, who also snagged 7.3 rebounds per game, averaged 4.4 points and 4.3 rebounds coming off the bench in 2003, and Frazier scored 6.3 points as a reserve.
Shane Power, who sat out the 2003 season after transferring from Iowa State, made a strong recovery from knee surgery and averaged 9.4 points per game.
Bowers also received relief at the point position with the emerging play of freshman Gary Ervin, who averaged 18.8 minutes per game.
For his part, Bowers was second on the team in scoring, averaging 15.3 points per game, and he dished out a team-high 131 assists.
The combination of new players and former reserve players blossoming in their new starting roles quickly turned the Bulldogs' outlook for the season around.
After beginning the year unranked and picked to finish third in the West, the Bulldogs rattled off 13 wins to start the season, setting a new all-time mark for consecutive victories at the beginning of a season.
MSU went on to post a perfect 12-0 record on the road, win its second straight West title and capture the school's first overall SEC regular-season championship since the 1962-63 season.
The Bulldogs' ride was topped off with a No 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The second seed in the Atlanta Regional is the best position MSU has ever received in the tournament.
MSU begins play in the tournament against No. 15-seed Monmouth (21-11) at 6:10 p.m. Friday in Orlando, Fla.