NEW YORK (AP) -- Mississippi State had Lawrence Roberts back in a
familiar role and the Bulldogs went to a rarely used defense.
Roberts, playing in just his second game of the season, scored
20 points and Mississippi State (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today; No. 12 AP) used an effective zone
defense in a 67-54 victory over Saint Mary's on Friday night in the
third-place game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The 6-foot-9 senior, a first-team All-America last season and a
preseason choice this year, missed the Bulldogs' opener because of
an NCAA suspension over payment of a trip to an NBA pre-draft
tryout. He missed the second game as he continued to recover from a
broken nose and a bad fall in practice.
He made his first appearance of the season in the 71-58 loss to
No. 5 Syracuse in Thursday's semifinals at Madison Square Garden
and struggled, shooting 2-for-9 and finishing with nine points and
Despite playing with a face mask, Roberts looked a little more
like himself against the Gaels (2-2), finishing 6-for-18 from the
field and getting seven rebounds in 31 minutes.
"We weren't sure how much Roberts would play and you could see
he was not at his best, he still wasn't comfortable," Bulldogs
coach Rick Stansbury said. "He gave us 20 points and seven
Mississippi State (3-1) closed the first half on a 13-5 run --
that included the 50th 3-pointer of Roberts' career -- to take a
34-23 lead. The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 14-3 run
that started and ended with three-point plays by Roberts.
The Bulldogs took their biggest lead at 53-31 on a 3-pointer by
Winsome Frazier with 12:33 to play. Saint Mary's got as close as 11
points twice the rest of the way.
Frazier finished with 12 points.
E.J. Rowland had 19 points for Saint Mary's, which struggled
with its shooting (16-for-47, 34 percent) and taking care of the
ball against Mississippi State's zone defense. The Gaels committed
20 turnovers, which the Bulldogs converted into 21 points.
"We didn't play that much zone last year," Stansbury said.
"We normally don't play defense until the middle of December but
we had to do it in this kind of competition."
Saint Mary's, which upset California in the quarterfinals of the
16-team tournament, lost 81-66 to Memphis in the semifinals.
"Before tonight we saw only two possessions of zone, and their
zone killed us," Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said. "Blame me
for not adjusting."
Still, the chance to play two ranked teams was something special
for a mid-major program from the West Coast Conference.
"We got a chance up close and firsthand to learn what we have
to do for the rest of the year," Rowland said. "We're not as good
as we thought we were."