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Updated: Saturday, December 11, 2004 11:51 PM EST
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(23) Mississippi St 83, Arkansas Lr 53

STARKVILLE, Mississippi (Ticker) -- Lawrence Roberts again showed why he is Mississippi State's best player.

Roberts scored 21 of his season-high 27 points in the first half to lead No. 23 Mississippi State to an 83-53 triumph over Arkansas-Little Rock.

The reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Roberts scored the Bulldogs' first 10 points. The senior was one of the few bright spots early on as the Bulldogs trailed, 15-12.

Zack Wright, who scored 15 points, gave the Trojans their final advantage at 19-18 with 9:20 left in the opening half.

But Roberts scored 11 points in a 24-5 surge to close the half that gave the Bulldogs a 42-24 cushion. They scored the final 15 points before the break, of which Roberts scored nine.

"We knew that if we let them stay in the game, they were capable of making runs," said Roberts, whose previous season best was 20 points. "We just really wanted to keep attacking and keep hitting them while they were down."

"I though we did a much better job getting Lawrence the basketball inside, in particular the first half," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "When that happens, you get a high-percentage shot, you get to the free throw line and you get easier shots for other people."

Also a National Player of the Year candidate, Roberts went 8-of-16 from the floor and 10-of-15 from the free throw line. He also collected nine rebounds.

"Lawrence Roberts is a very good player," Arkansas-Little Rock coach Steve Shields said. "We let him get loose."

It was the first time this season that Roberts was playing without the protective face shield that guarded his nose - which he broke in practice before the team's first game of the season.

"Being able to play without it gives me more confidence," Roberts said. "When you always play with something in the back of your mind, then you aren't playing to your full potential. It's just a big breath of relief being able to play without it."

The Bulldogs controlled the boards almost throughout, outrebounding the Trojans 55-23, including a 23-4 bulge on the glass.

"We knew Mississippi State was a very good basketball team," Shields said. "They're so physical off the glass."

Dietric Slater added nine points off the bench for Mississippi State (7-2), which led by at least 18 points the entire second half.

"Most of the time, I just look to play defense," Slater said. "Tonight coach told me to come out and look for my offense."

Darius Eason scored 12 points to pace Arkansas-Little Rock (4-4).

© 2005 STATS, Inc