8:00 PM ET, December 18, 2004
Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Maybe now Mississippi State can forget about last March.Reminded all week about their early exit from the NCAA Tournament, the Bulldogs (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) took care of the team that knocked them out. Winsome Frazier emerged from a deep shooting slump by scoring 20 points on Saturday night, setting up an 80-74 victory over Xavier.The Bulldogs (9-2) won their 14th straight road game, the longest current streak in Division I, by finding open shots against a defense that is prone to give them up. Mississippi State shot a season-high 54 percent from the field.Something else was on their minds, too.Xavier (2-4) upset Mississippi State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Lionel Chalmers scored a season-high 31 in that game, which became the springboard for Xavier's first Elite Eight appearance.This isn't the same team. Chalmers and Romain Sato went in the NBA draft, and the inexperienced roster left behind has struggled early.It didn't matter to Mississippi State, which has the bulk of its team back."All week long, we got calls from former players saying it's payback time," Frazier said. "That meant a lot to us."Xavier fell behind by 16 points in the second half and then made it close at the end. Dedrick Finn's 3-pointer with 1:43 left cut it to 73-69, but Xavier missed its next two shots and was forced to foul. Mississippi State went 5-of-6 from the line to clinch it."When we were down 16, it was a sense of pride," Finn said. "We didn't want to get blown out on our home court. That's when we took it to the next level."Xavier's inability to prevent the fastbreak and guard the perimeter made the difference.Frazier had made only 34 percent of his shots in the last four games, unable to find his usually dependable touch. The senior guard made all four of his 3-point shots on Saturday, leading a balanced offense.Mississippi State went 8-of-12 from behind the arc, getting open shots in transition."I don't feel like I was struggling," said Frazier, who was 6-of-10 from the field. "I just tried to do some different things, tried to drive more and pass more. My mom called me the other day and said, 'Just aim and shoot.'"Lawrence Roberts also had 20 points for Mississippi State, including three free throws in the final 45 seconds. The Bulldogs took advantage of Xavier's 15 turnovers, scoring 17 points off fast breaks."When you make a turnover against Mississippi State, it's either a layup or a 3," Xavier coach Sean Miller said.Freshman Josh Duncan scored a career-high 13 points, leading five Xavier players in double figures.Things looked bleak for Xavier five minutes in, when starting guards Finn and Stanley Burrell went down in a pileup, stayed on the floor for several minutes and headed for the bench. Neither was seriously hurt, and Xavier opened a lead while they were out.Duncan hit a 3-pointer that gave Xavier its biggest lead, 21-15. The Musketeers repeatedly ran down loose balls, and Finn dived out of bounds going for a steal shortly after his return.Mississippi State, which won the Southeastern Conference's regular-season title, took control with a balanced offense and smothering defense.Roberts, the SEC player of the year last season, hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key over Keith Jackson -- Xavier's only senior -- that capped a nine-point run. Ontario Harper's fall-away 3 just before the buzzer put Mississippi State up 40-32 at halftime.Turnovers set up Gary Ervin's pull-up jumper and three-point play, and Frazier made a fast-break layup that pushed the lead to 47-34 in the opening minutes of the second half. Frazier later hit consecutive 3s from the right corner that built the lead to 16 points.
|» Dec 18, 2004||MSST 80, @XAV 74||Recap|