Double trouble

It's tough to plan against MSU's Roberts


Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 at 12:14 a.m.
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Lawrence Roberts, a 6-foot-9, 235-pound post player at Mississippi State, is averaging a double-double (16.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) for the season.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mississippi State forward Lawrence Roberts is still healing, still dealing with issues that come when a teammate is killed and you walk away from a team where you started your college career.
The turmoil at Baylor seems so far behind, yet so close at the same time. When No. 19 Mississippi State plays No. 17 Florida tonight in the O'Connell Center, it will serve as an escape for a player who has endured more traumatic experiences in the past nine months than most college basketball players have in a lifetime.
"I've tried to stay active," Roberts said. "But when you do think about it, it's like yesterday. I can remember the phone call saying Pat (Dennehy) is missing.
"That's fresh in my mind. I don't think I'll ever forget that."
Roberts left Baylor because of the uncertainty of the troubled program following the murder of PatrickDennehy and subsequent resignation of coach Dave Bliss, who attempted to portray Dennehy as a drug dealer in orderto cover up NCAA violations.
Teammate Carlton Dotson was charged with Dennehy's murder and is awaiting trial. Bliss is in exile, unable to even get a job as a volunteer coach at his son's high school outside Denver.
"A lot of lives were ruined," Roberts said. "That's the thing that really saddens me."
Roberts wasn't one of them. The NCAA gave him a special exemption by allowing him to transfer last August without sitting out the mandatory season.
Mississippi State provided the sanctuary. So far, Roberts has created headaches for opposing Southeastern Conference coaches trying to create a game plan to contain him. The 6-foot-9, 235-pound post player is averaging a double-double (16.2 points and 10.5 rebounds per game) for the season and has finished with 10 double-doubles in 15 games.
"They have a superstar, a player of the year candidate," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Not only in the league but in our country."
Having Roberts is a big reason why the Bulldogs are off to a 14-1 start. It's a big reason why Mississippi State went to LSU on Saturday and handled the Tigers.
"Lawrence is a tremendous talent," Mississippi State senior point guard Timmy Bowers said. "He can do so many things."
Donovan said he knew of his reputation as a bruiser when Roberts transferred from Baylor, but has since gained a greater appreciation of his game from studying film.
"This is a guy that steps out and shoots 3s, puts it on the floor, posts up, can score in the post, can score off the post," Donovan said. "So I think you're dealing with a complete player."
Which makes the task of guarding him all the more difficult. Donovan wasn't satisfied with the way his post defense played against Vanderbilt. He was more pleased with how his team handled Tennessee center Brandon Crump, the most physical player Florida has faced down low so far this season.
Joining Roberts up front for Mississippi State is 7-foot junior center Marcus Campbell, a Winter Haven native, and 6-8 forward Branden Vincent, a lefty who Donovan said reminds him of Kentucky forward Erik Daniels.
"This is as big a challenge as anyone that we've played in the frontcourt," Donovan said.
Roberts will get the most attention. Kentucky went as far as triple-teaming him, which created open shots in the perimeter for Bowers and guard Winsome Frazier. Bowers hit a flurry of 3-pointers in the second half that nearly brought Mississippi State back from a 16-point deficit.
"They can beat you in a lot of different ways," Donovan said. "I think that's why they are where they are right now."
  • FREE THROWS: Forward Christian Drejer (strained back) sat out practice Monday. Forward Matt Walsh (bruised knee) and guard Anthony Roberson (bruised thigh) also sat out portions of Monday's practice. "We came back from Vanderbilt a little banged up," Donovan said. All three resumed practicing Tuesday and are expected to start tonight, Donovan said.
    You can reach Kevin Brockway at brockwk@gvillesun.com or 374-5054.
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