MSU stays closer to home
By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
March 21, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Any time it takes just two hours to get to an NCAA Tournament game, you have to be elated.
Mississippi State is definitely excited to be playing in the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, after having to go to Dallas, Texas, last year where the Bulldogs lost in the second round to Texas by four points. This despite MSU being seeded higher.
The Bulldogs (21-9) face Butler (25-5) in tonight's second game, 30 minutes following Louisville and Austin Peay.
Mario Austin leads State with 15.4 points and 7.6 rebounds. Timmy Bowers averages 14.8 points, Michal Ignerski (9.3), Zimmerman (9.1) and Ontario Harper (7.6) completing the starting five.
Butler is led by guard Brandon Miller (12.3), 6-foot-10 center Joel Cornette (11.3), guard Darnell Archey (10.4), forward Mike Monserez (9.3) and forward Lewis Curry (4.7).
Guard/forward Duane Lightfoot adds 10.9 points off the bench.
While most are familiar with State, thanks to a second-place finish in last week's SEC Tournament in New Orleans, few have heard of Butler.
The Bulldogs from Indianapolis, Ind., have put together six straight 20-win seasons as a member of the Horizon League.
This year's Butler team played at Duke on Jan. 30, losing 80-60.
Butler was passed over in last year's tournament field.
Cornette was impressed with what he's seen of State.
Austin is equally impressed with tapes he's seen of Butler.
State should have some advantages in personnel.
Butler runs an offense similar to at least one team on MSU's schedule, and they hit from long range like another team the Bulldogs faced.
For the most part, Butler hasn't played zone defense, a bane to MSU at times this year.
MSU does have one omen working in its favor, Austin led Sumter County to back-to-back state championships his sophomore and junior years at the BJCC. He was MVP of the 1999 Class 4A Final Four.