NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- In a game of runs, No. 24 Mississippi State had the last one.
Lawrence Roberts scored 25 points and grabbed 19 rebounds and Mississippi State pulled away late to post a 71-65 win over Virginia Tech in the opener of the Nokia Sugar Bowl Classic.
After a 3-pointer by Hokies forward Coleman Collins tied the game, 56-56, with 6:39 left, the Bulldogs (12-2) scored the next nine points to take control en route to their sixth straight win.
Roberts had one basket in the surge and made a pair of free throws in the final minute. The 6-9 senior fell one rebound shy of recording his second straight 20-point, 20-rebound effort.
"That's what we want Lawrence to do for us," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, whose team held a 49-29 advantage on the boards. "When the ball goes up, we want him to grab every rebound."
"The dude is good," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said of Roberts, the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year last season. "He's a big ol' dude. He's a physical guy, and he's got great hands. Physically, he's too strong for us right now."
The Bulldogs scored the game's first 11 points, capped by Roberts' dunk, but the Hokies (6-5) rallied to take a 30-29 halftime lead.
Virginia Tech pushed its edge to 37-33 early in the second before Roberts, Marcus Campbell and Winsome Frazier scored all of the Mississippi State's points in a 17-4 surge.
Campbell scored 12 points and Frazier added 11 and they made a combined 10-of-12 free throws. The Bulldogs shot 39 percent from the floor but dominated from the line, sinking 25-of-37, compared with the Hokies' 5-of-11 effort.
"I think we're playing well," said Roberts, who is averaging 18.4 points and 11.6 rebounds. "We're playing as a team, and I think we're going to continue to get better. I think we're at a good point right now as a ballclub." Carlos Dixon scored 19 points, 17 in the second half, and Coleman Collins added 16 for Virginia Tech, which has lost five of seven following a 4-0 start.
It was Mississippi State's second victory in this eight-game series, the first coming in 1980.
The Bulldogs won in the opening game of this doubleheader for the third consecutive season. Mississippi State defeated Oklahoma in 2002 and Tulane in 2003.