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Today in MSU History: Road Warriors Defeat Florida

January 21, 2004- #19 Mississippi State made its first big statement of the 2003-04 season with a win in Gainesville over the 17th-ranked Gators.

January 21, 2004. Mississippi State was 14-1 and ranked 19th in the country, but no one really knew who they were.

After losing four starters from the 2003 squad including All-SEC players Derrick Zimmerman and Mario Austin, State began the season unranked.

Despite their undefeated non-conference slate, the Bulldogs didn’t crack the top-25 until SEC play. A week earlier, they had taken #5 Kentucky down to the wire and lost on a last-second tip-in. Despite the loss, the effort was respected enough by the AP pollsters that the #20 Bulldogs actually moved up a spot.

A road game against #17 Florida gave the Bulldogs a second chance to prove they were legit.

How hard was it to win in Gainesville? State was winless in their previous four visits, losing the last two by a combined 58 points. SEC West teams were winless at Florida since 1999, and Florida hadn't been beaten by double digits at home in the same timeframe.

A victory on the road over Florida would be a gold star on the Bulldogs' resume.

The lead changed hands eight different tims in a tightly-contested first twelve minutes. With State holding a 21-20 lead, Lawrence Roberts hit a three-pointer that sparked a 10-2 run to give the Bulldogs a double-digit lead.

State carried a 44-35 lead into halftime - the most points Florida had given up in any first half that year. Of MSU's 44 points, 32 came from the paint.

Winsome Frazier came out hot in the second half and sparked a 16-5 run that put the game away. With 15:34 left, MSU held a commanding 60-40 lead.

A spectacular steal, fast break, and dunk by Timmy Bowers with 7:19 remaining extended the lead back to 20, and many of the sellout crowd headed for the exits.

Stansbury pulled the starters early, and State went without a field goal in the final 4:48, making the final margin of 79-68 seem closer than the majority of the second half.

Nevertheless, the Bulldogs had made a statement in Florida's first double-digit home loss in five years.

Lawrence Roberts tallied his 11th double-double on the season with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Winsome Frazier scored 17, Timmy Bowers added 13, and Shane Power had season-highs with 15 points and 7 assists.

Stansbury commented after the game:

I thought our kids came out and executed it with two things you have to have: poise and confidence ... You've got to have toughness to go on the road and win.

Poise, confidence, and toughness turned out to be defining qualities of the 2004 Road Warriors, who won the SEC Championship and went undefeated in enemy territory.