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Tampa subregional

State ties, rivalry bind two guards

By RODNEY PAGE, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003

TAMPA -- Kelvin Torbert might not know much about Florida's team, but he is familiar with guard Anthony Roberson. Torbert, a sophomore guard from Flint, Mich., grew up down the road from Roberson, a freshman from Saginaw, Mich.

While they didn't play high school basketball together, they were teammates on a traveling AAU team and forged a close friendship. Both were recruited by Michigan State, but only Torbert decided to stay close to home.

"We grew up together, we're always going to have a good relationship," Torbert said. "He's one of those guys where nobody has anything bad to say about him. I thought maybe we would play with each other, but he made his decision and you have to back him on it. He did what he thought was best for him."

Torbert was Michigan's Mr. Basketball in 2001 and was the Sporting News and Gatorade national high school basketball player of the year. Roberson was second behind Michigan State's Paul Davis as Michigan's Mr. Basketball in 2002.

Torbert, who has a Flint tattoo on his left biceps, likely will draw the difficult assignment of guarding Roberson, the SEC freshman of the year.

"When you play against him, you have to be physical," Torbert said. "He can shoot, handle the ball, penetrate and create situations for other players. He can do it all. You just try to contain him, make it a tough night for him."

Roberson would like to see Torbert have a tough night.

"After playing with (Torbert) on the AAU circuit, it's going to be funny looking across the court and playing against him," Roberson said. "I know this, we both want to win more than anything. We'll go as hard as we can, but we'll always be friends off the court. We're good friends, but I want to beat him more than anything."

BALLINGER RECOVERING: Senior forward Adam Ballinger played only seven minutes against Colorado in Friday's opening round, and there was a reason. Ballinger, who averages more than 17 minutes per game, has had a stomach virus the past two days.

After Friday's game, Ballinger forced down some mashed potatoes, his first food in 48 hours. He ate oatmeal Saturday morning and said he is feeling better.

"I couldn't keep anything down," he said. "My head hurt. I guess it was just a virus. I'm getting better."

BREAK OUT THE TAPE: It may have been back on Dec.14, but the Spartans might want to look at film of their 71-67 win over Kentucky in Lexington. Michigan State rallied with late 3s, Kentucky's only home loss this season. The Spartans held Kentucky to 37.9-percent shooting in the second half.

Florida lost to Kentucky twice, including a blowout in Lexington.

STAYING HOT: Since losing by 30 at Illinois on Feb.18 and by one to Syracuse a week later, Michigan State is 6-1. The season turned around during that two-game losing streak, said sophomore point guard Chris Hill.

"Since then, we've done a better job of staying focused and understanding that our backs were against the wall," Hill said. "We had to go on a run and to our credit we got that done."

ET CETERA: Michigan State's past 10 victories in the NCAA Tournament have come by double digits, dating to March21, 1999. ... The Spartans improved to 20-12 in beating Colorado, their fifth 20-win season in the past six years.

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