By John L. Pitts | NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – In a game with 102 missed shots, the biggest make might have been the most unlikely one.
Mississippi State’s Diamber Johnson nailed her team’s only 3-pointer, after 10 previous MSU misses, to send the game to overtime and the Lady Bulldogs went on to beat Ole Miss 53-50 on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.
The victory gave Mississippi State (14-11, 4-8 SEC) a sweep of the season series and snapped a five-game losing streak.
Johnson, the senior from Pontotoc, was honored before the game for reaching the 1,000-point mark in her career. Playing with her mother watching from the stands, she was scoreless at halftime on seven field goal attempts as her team trailed 24-23.
She had a single basket when she looked for the game-tying shot at the end of regulation.
“I felt I was going to hit one,” said Johnson, who finished with seven points. “I just thought it would have happened sooner.”
Johnson scored with 5 seconds left in regulation. Teammate Porsha Porter stole the inbounds pass and just missed a game-winner at the buzzer.
“I just knew I was going to make that shot,” said Porter, who’d hit a behind-the-back layup late in regulation. She would atone for that miss in overtime, as she accounted for 6 of her team’s 10 points and finished with a game-high 18.
Porter added a game-high five steals as the Lady Bulldogs held a crucial 14-0 edge in points off turnovers.
“That’s the way you want your seniors to play,” said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, who had watched Johnson and Porter take over in the second half at Oxford, a 51-46 victory on Jan. 19.
Her team was 1-5 since then. Ole Miss has now lost eight in a row.
“Every win is a great win,” Fanning-Otis said.
For Ole Miss (12-14, 2-11), Valencia McFarland scored 16 points on 5 for 21 shooting, 2 of 9 from 3-point range. She made 4 of 5 free throws but missed one that would have tied the game at 51 late in overtime.
“It hurts,” Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. “It was a gutsy, gutsy performance by our kids today. … We just fell a little bit short.”
The Rebels held an eye-popping 62-48 edge in rebounding, as Danielle McCray and Tia Faleru each had 12.
“I don’t know the last time we gave up 62 rebounds,” Fanning-Otis said. “We were able to get our share.”
Her team hit 22 of 74 field-goal attempts; Ole Miss hit 17 of 67.
Mississippi State entertains Tennessee on Thursday. The Lady Vols visit Ole Miss on Sunday.