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MSU's Roberts healthy and ready to play

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
March 21, 2004
ORLANDO, Fla. With just four words, Mississippi State University's Lawrence Roberts put a lot of Bulldog fans minds at ease when he spoke with reporters during the team's press conference on Saturday.
The 6-foot-9 said in his normally simple and to-the-point manner, "My eye is fine."
A Monmouth player in the Bulldogs' opening round win in the NCAA tournament on Friday poked Roberts in his right eye, while the two were fighting for a rebound. The junior crashed to the floor and withered in pain after the collision.
He was helped off the court and immediately taken to the locker room to be looked at, while he returned to the bench minutes later, he said his vision was still fuzzy after the game.
But that problem has cleared up for the reigning SEC Player of the Year.
Watch the guards
Xavier's triple-headed threat in the backcourt reminded people why they are so dangerous in Friday's 80-70 comeback win against Louisville in the opening round of the tournament.
Starting backcourt mates Lionel Chalmers and Romain Sato tallied 25 and 24 points, respectively, and reserve guard Dedrick Finn came off the bench to score 11.
Chalmers has averaged 16 points a game this year, and Sato leads the team in scoring with a 16.1 average. Finn has contributed eight points a game.
Campbell could be big
MSU reserve center Marcus Campbell enjoyed one of his best games of the 2003-04 season against Xavier on Dec. 13.
The 7-footer scored 16 points, his second highest total of the year, and grabbed five rebounds in the Bulldogs' 82-70 win over the Musketeers at Humphrey Coliseum.
Campbell was a starter than, but he could come of the bench earlier than normal against Xavier in today's second-round match-up.
Xavier's revenge?
Today's game between Xavier and MSU marks the third time in the last two years the teams have met on the basketball court.
The Bulldogs have won both of the previous games, winning this year's contest 82-79. MSU also defeated Xavier 71-61 in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 14, 2002.
Chalmers tried to down play using a revenge factor for motivation heading into the two teams' third match-up.
Requiem for a shooting team
North Carolina State entered the tournament leading the nation in free-throw shooting, knocking down 79.8 percent of its shoots from the charity stripe.
The Wolfpack continued its strong showing at the line in their first-round win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday, hitting 20-of-24 free throws.
Melvin may credit practice and repetition, but Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said creating a good shooting team starts much earlier than on the practice floor.
N.C. State in Blue
Xavier can count on one man to cheer loud for the Musketeers against MSU today Sendek.
The North Carolina State head coach has plenty of connections to the current Xavier coaching staff.
Musketeers head coach Thad Matta was an assistant coach under Sendek at the University of Miami (Ohio) in 1994-95 and at Miami in 1996-97. Xavier associate head coach Sean Miller was also an assistant to Sendek at Miami (Ohio) from 1993-1995.
Musketeers assistant coach John Groce rounds out the staff's connections with Sendek. Groce entered the ranks of NCAA Division I coaching as a member of Sendek's staff at N.C. State from 1996-2000.
Frigid Freije
It's unmistakable that Vanderbilt forward Matt Freije is the top target for opposing defenses when the Commodores play.
So it is understandable that Freije's scoring average 19.2 points per game has dropped off a bit during the postseason, as teams start focusing on the 6-foot-10 senior.
Freije averaged 12.7 points in three games in the SEC Tournament, and he scored 13 points against Western Michigan on Friday in the opening round of the SEC tournament.
But Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said the added defensive focus on Freije by opponents isn't the overriding reason the Overland Park, Kan., native's scoring has been down.