CENTERS DRAW THE ATTENTION
By Gene Phelps
The SEC’s two premier centers will take center stage today at Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum when Alabama hosts Mississippi State in a crucial SEC Western Division matchup.
In one corner, Mississippi State has its 6-foot-11 All-SEC center Erick Dampier. He is ninth in the league in scoring (15.1), tops in rebounding (9.4) and second in blocked shots (3.5).
In the other corner, Alabama has its 6-10 big man, Roy Rogers. He’s not ranked in scoring (12.9), but he’s second in rebounding (9.1) and leads Dampier in blocked shots (4.8). Last week, Rogers set an SEC record for blocks in a game with 14 against Georgia.
“I expect a good matchup,” Alabama coach David Hobbs said. “Roy has improved pretty well since their last meeting, but I’m sure Dampier has, too.”
In Alabama’s 56-55 win Jan. 13 in Starkville, Dampier dominated. Rogers was 1-of-8 from the field, scored two points, had just three rebounds and blocked four shots in 36 minutes. Dampier had 14 points, 12 boards and four blocks.
“Roy is so much better now than he was then,” State coach Richard Williams said. “I don’t anticipate the same thing. He (Rogers) is the most improved player in the league. He’s playing the best basketball of any center in the league.”
What makes this TV game (Jefferson-Pilot) so crucial is the fact that an SEC Western Division championship is on the line.
Mississippi State (17-6) is tied with Arkansas at the top of the standings with an 8-5 conference mark. Alabama (14-9) is in second place at 7-6. All three teams have two conference games remaining after today.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” Hobbs said. “We couldn’t ask to be in a better situation.”
The Crimson Tide plays next Wednesday at Arkansas. State’s at Vanderbilt.
Williams said that guard Darryl Wilson, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer (18.0 ppg) would play today depsite having a bruised chest. Wilson suffered the injury a week ago in practice and injured it again in Wednesday’s 88-77 win over LSU.