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Updated: Saturday, February 28, 2004 11:28 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(7) Mississippi St 72, Vanderbilt 69

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Lawrence Roberts and Mississippi State survived another challenge on the road.

Roberts collected 18 points and 14 rebounds as the seventh-ranked Bulldogs remained unbeaten on the road by holding on for a 72-69 triumph over Vanderbilt in Southeastern Conference play.

Mississippi State (23-3, 12-2 SEC West) never took command until Roberts' jumper with 8:22 remaining gave it the lead for good, 57-55. The Bulldogs, who improved to 11-0 on the road, held the Commodores at bay with a combination of their defense and free-throw shooting.

"Anytime you win on the road, it is special," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "For our kids to come in here and win shows our heart and toughness."

Roberts' free throw with 24 seconds to go made it 70-63 before Vanderbilt (18-7, 7-7 East) staged a late rally. Julian Terrell's layup pulled the Commodores within 72-69 with two seconds to go and Mississippi State committed a turnover on the inbounds pass.

But a final inbounds pass by the Commodores went awry as time expired.

Timmy Bowers netted 16 points and Winsome Frazier added 15 for Mississippi State, which survived a dismal second half in which it managed only eight baskets.

The Bulldogs managed to win by employing zone defense, limiting the Commodores to 29 percent (9-of-31) shooting after halftime. The work of Roberts and Branden Vincent, who pulled down eight rebounds, on the glass was another key as Mississippi State held a 45-32 rebounding advantage.

"The way Lawrence and Branden were hitting the boards was unbelievable," Bowers said. "I told them after the game in the locker room that I love when we play with that kind of intensity."

Vanderbilt had a three-game winning streak snapped and was led by Matt Freije's 26 points. The only other Commodore in double figures was Mario Moore, who had 10 points. "We never got in a rhythm in the second half," Freije said. "We had a nice one going in the first half. They got in a zone and that bothered us a bit."

A high-scoring first half featured 13 lead changes and six ties and neither team led by more than six points. Mississippi State took a 43-42 lead on Bowers' tip-in at the buzzer.

Both teams cooled off after the break and Freije only netted nine points in the second half. Vanderbilt never led after Dawid Przbyszewski scored to open the half.

"Our shooting in the first half made us look good," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. "The second half was played down in the trenches and they were just better than us down there."

The Bulldogs knocked off the Commodores for the fourth straight meeting and buoyed their hopes of a possible top seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have won 10 of their last 11 games.

Mississippi State improved to 8-41 all-time in Nashville against Vanderbilt.


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