Two of the three ranked teams playing on the opening night of the college basketball season cruised to easy wins. Then there was Mississippi State.
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs, playing without preseason All-America Lawrence Roberts, beat Fairfield 53-49 on Thursday night in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
In the other games involving ranked teams, also both openers in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, No. 6 Syracuse beat Northern Colorado 104-54 and No. 24 Memphis crushed Savannah State 102-40.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury wouldn't use Roberts' absence as an excuse for the close call.
"It's very obvious that we're not quite as good without Lawrence Roberts," Stansbury said. "But we knew coming into this game that we didn't have him, so we can't make any excuse."
Roberts, a senior forward, sat out because of a one-game suspension from the NCAA over his expenses to attend a tryout before the NBA draft.
Reserve Ontario Harper scored 17 points for the Bulldogs, who trailed by as many as eight points in the first half.
Mississippi State will play Birmingham-Southern in the second round Friday night. Birmingham-Southern beat Alabama A&M 79-69 on Thursday.
Winsome Frazier and Gary Ervin hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Bulldogs a 47-39 lead with 1:44 to play. Frazier and Ervin both finished with nine points.
Deng Gai had 14 points and eight rebounds for Fairfield.
"Even without Roberts, Mississippi State is a really, really good team," Fairfield coach Tim O'Toole said. "We tried to play a perfect game and slow it down, but they beat us on the boards and made us shoot poorly."
No. 6 Syracuse 104, N. Colorado 54