Florida pulls out 55-52 win over Lady Bulldogs

By Miss. State Media Relations

STARKVILLE – One of Mississippi State’s most difficult offensive days of the season, led to a frustrating home loss Sunday afternoon. The Lady Bulldogs dropped a 55-52 decision to Florida in a Southeastern Conference basketball game played in the Humphrey Coliseum.

After opening the season with nine straight home wins, the Lady Bulldogs dropped their second straight at home, while missing out on what would have been the first 4-1 league start in school history. MSU fell to 12-6 overall and 3-2 in league play, while Florida improved to 10-8 and 3-2.

The Lady Gators bounced back from a 66-64 home loss to No. 4 Tennessee on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs could not build on the momentum of a second straight road win in league play, a 78-60 victory over Arkansas Thursday night in Fayetteville.

“One thing that was very glaring was the turnovers,” MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “We did a good job of forcing turnovers but we didn’t take advantage of the extra possessions. We hold them to under 40 percent shooting from the floor but we didn’t make enough things happen on our offensive end.”

Both teams had an offensive struggle in the opening 20 minutes. The teams were tied at 7-7 midway through the opening half. MSU only had two leads in the opening half, including the last one at 9-7 on an Armelie Lumnau putback with 9:28 left before halftime.

A 3-point basket by Florida’s Jordan Jones gave the Lady Gators a 23-20 lead at the intermission. Florida shot 30 percent from the field in the opening half, while MSU responded with a 25 percent clip during that same stretch.

Mary Kathryn Govero hit a 3-point basket to give MSU a 24-23 less than two minutes into the game’s final half. MSU forced a couple of turnovers and moved the advantage to 34-29 on a Chanel Mokango layup with 13:05 remaining. MSU led 38-32 after a layup by Lumanu with 11:50 left.

Still, the hosts could not pull away for good. Florida reeled off a 12-4 run to regain a 44-42 lead. Diamber Johnson hit a jumper for MSU to force the game’s final tie at 44-44 with 5:17 remaining.

Trumae Lucas put the Lady Gators ahead for good on an old-fashioned 3-point play with 3:28 left.

The Lady Gators nursed the lead by hitting 4-of-6 free throws in the final minute. MSU’s Alexis Rack hit a pair of 3-point baskets in the final half minute to create the final deficit.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 19 of 58 shots from the field (32.8 percent), 8 of 26 shots from 3-point range (30.8 percent) and 6 of 14 shots from the foul line (42.9 percent). The Lady Gators hit 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5 percent), 5 of 21 shots from 3-point range (23.8 percent) and 12 of 19 shots from the foul line (63.2 percent).

Florida held a 46-35 rebounding advantage. MSU had 10 assists and 18 turnovers, while UF had 10 assists and 21 turnovers.

Rack led the way for the Lady Bulldogs with 16 points. Lumanu added her third double-double of the season with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Govero and Diamber Johnson each added 10 points. Chanel Mokango had four blocked shots.

Florida received 13 points from Sharielle Smith and 11 points from Azania Stewart. Steffi Sorensen had a team-high 12 rebounds.

The Lady Bulldogs return to action on Thursday night, taking on arch-rival Ole Miss in the first of two meetings for this season. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. in the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford. Ole Miss enters the contest at 12-5 overall and 3-1 in league play, after Sunday’s 80-71 home win over No. 11 LSU.