MSU ready to bounce back today
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
March 19, 2004
ORLANDO, Fla. Mississippi State University has not had to bounce back from a loss very often this basketball season.
In fact, you can count on one hand the number of times the Bulldogs have talked about rebounding with a win two.
But MSU will have to regroup from just its third loss of the season today in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
The No. 2-seeded Bulldogs (25-3) take on No. 15 Monmouth (21-11) at 6 p.m. at the TD Waterhouse Center in a first-round game of the Atlanta Regional, coming off just their third loss of the season.
MSU lost its last game 74-70 in overtime to Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament on March 12 in the Georgia Dome.
But if this season has proven anything, it's that this Bulldog squad responds well after a setback.
After MSU's first loss of the season to Kentucky on Jan. 13, which ended a 13-game winning streak, the Bulldogs ripped off eight straight wins.
MSU followed a home loss to Alabama on Feb. 21 by winning its last four games of the regular season. The Bulldogs capped their season-ending run with an 82-81 overtime victory over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
"You just have to go back and start doing the little things that got us to this point," said Bulldogs guard Timmy Bowers. "We just have to get back to playing our style of basketball. Against Vanderbilt, that wasn't Mississippi State basketball. You just have to have more energy and effort after a loss."
Monmouth comes into today's game riding a three-game winning streak.
The Hawks are making their third tournament appearance in school history, securing the berth by winning the Northeast Conference Tournament.
Monmouth defeated all three teams it faced in the conference tournament by double digits, capping its run with a 67-55 victory over Central Connecticut State in the championship game.
Hawks guard Tyler Azzarelli led the way in the win over Central Connecticut with a career-high 19 points.
Hamilton and guard Dwayne Byfield have been Monmouth's most consistent offensive threats this season. Hamilton has averaged 16.6 points per game, and Byfield has scored at a 12.3 clip.
Azzaralli averaged 3.9 points per game during the season, and center Brian Bozier has averaged 7.5 points. Chris Kenny chipped in with 7.4 points per game this season.
MSU is headlined by Bowers and forward Lawrence Roberts. Roberts led the team in scoring this year, averaging 17 points per game, and Bowers has scored at 15.3 a contest.
Winsome Frazier has tallied 13.5 points per game for the Bulldogs, and Shane Power and Branden Vincent have averaged 9.4 and 7, respectively.
The Bulldogs have averaged 77.1 points per game as a team, while the Hawks have scored 68.8 per game.
MSU also has the edge on the boards, grabbing an SEC-high 40.9 rebounds per game. Monmouth has averaged 33.4 rebounds a game, a -3.2 difference compared to its opponents.
Despite MSU's apparent edge in the scoring column on paper, the Bulldogs will not take the Hawks lightly in today's game.
"We have to go out and play," Roberts said. "We have to prepare because our next game is always our biggest game, especially now."