Red-hot 'Dogs rout Volunteers
Published: Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 11:36 p.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Lawrence Roberts scored 20 points and Timmy Bowers had 18 to lead No. 11 Mississippi State to an 82-60 victory over Tennessee on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs fourth straight double-digit victory.
The defending SEC West champion Bulldogs (17-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) are threatening to run away with the division title this season.
Mississippi State has a 2 1/2-game lead over Alabama and LSU, and has been overwhelming its opponents of late.
Tennessee (10-6, 2-4), meanwhile, is heading the other way. The Vols have lost four straight and five of six.
Scooter McFadgon, the SEC's leading scorer, had 20 points to lead the Vols, who committed 21 turnovers and never looked comfortable against Mississippi State's active defense.
The Bulldogs had 10 steals and scored 35 points off Tennessee's giveaways. They are off to their best SEC start since 1993-94.
After losing to Kentucky on a flukey buzzer-beater, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury tinkered with his starting lineup, sitting lumbering 7-footer Marcus Campbell and inserting versatile 6-foot-5 forward Shane Power.
Smaller has been better for the Bulldogs, who have won their last four by an average of 14 points. The latest was the most lopsided.
Mississippi State outscored the Vols 22-10 in the first 10 minutes of the second half, forcing six turnovers and opening up a 61-39 lead.
Roberts made the play of the game during the surge. The 6-9 power forward came up with a with a steal under the basket and went end-to-end for a soft layup.
The Bulldogs may have even found themselves a new 7-footer to provide spot duty.
Wesley Morgan, a 7-2 sophomore, had seven points and seven rebounds in his first SEC game. He padded his stats at the end, but he provided a few good minutes in the first half when it was still a competitive game.
Bowers had 14 points in the first half, carrying the Bulldogs offensively while Roberts was taking a while to find his grove.
The Bulldogs played well in spurts in the first 20 minutes, keeping the Vols off balance by mixing a trapping zone with their man-to-man defense.
But every time they managed to get a double-digit lead, Tennessee would cut into it.
After missing some good looks early, Roberts finally came alive late in the half. The junior scored seven straight points in the final two minutes, the last two on an emphatic two-handed slam after a steal in the backcourt to make it 37-26.
McFadgon swished a 3 from the corner at the buzzer to make it 39-29 at the half.
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