Lady Bulldogs edged by Auburn, 45-41

By Miss. State Media Relations

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State’s best defensive effort could still not add up to victory as the Lady Bulldogs dropped a 45-41 decision to Auburn in a Southeastern Conference women’s basketball game played Thursday night in the Humphrey Coliseum.

“In the league games we have been fighting back,” MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “The next step is putting yourself in a position to win. Winning requires 40 minutes of focus. We have to better blocking out on missed free throws and soring offensive putbacks. We are close, we have to keep working hard and we can win some of these games.”

The Lady Bulldogs dropped their sixth straight contest, falling to 8-9 overall and 0- 5 in league play. Meanwhile, Auburn improved to 12-7 and 5-1. Auburn has won four straight games in this arena.

It appeared things might end differently when the Maroon and White grabbed a 37-34 lead with 7:35 remaining on a layup by Ashley Brown. However, the hosts did not score again Catina Bett hit a jumper in the lane with 16 seconds remaining.

Bett missed the follow-up free throw, but Darriel Gaynor scored the offensive putback with three seconds remaining. However, time would expire before the rally could become completed.

The contest was a defensive struggle throughout. Still, MSU could not muster enough offense, including a miserable 1-for-13 night from 3-point range. The Lady Bulldogs also turned the ball over 20 times – a third time in league play for 20 or more turnovers by MSU.

MSU scored the first five points of the game, as Auburn went more than five minutes without scoring. AU then caught fire, scoring six points in less than a minute to take a 6-5 lead.

A 3-point basket by Blanche Alverson ran the advantage to 9-5.

The Lady Bulldogs battled back for a 9-9 tie, before using an 8-0 run to take a 19-14 lead. Back-to-back baskets by Porsha Porter capped that run as the Tigers went more than three minutes without scoring.

Defensively, MSU held Auburn to 20.7 percent shooting in the opening half. That led to a 22-16 halftime advantage for the Maroon and White. MSU had not led a league game at halftime this season.

The Lady Bulldogs still held the six-point push after a putback by Bett with 18:15 left in regulation, ran the advantage to 26-20. Bett, who tallied 11 points in the first half, would not score again until her basket in the final half-minute.

“Catina has not played this many minutes in league games,” Fanning-Otis said. “She has to be more aggressive offensively. At the same time, we have to do a better job of getting her the ball. As this team plays together more, we will have to find more offensive consistency to be able to win some of these games.”

Auburn continued to trail until an Alli Smalley putback gave the Tigers a 30-29 lead with 12:02 remaining.

Not deterred, an 8-4 run by MSU placed the hosts on top 37-34 with 7:35 left. However, the Lady Bulldogs would miss their next 13 shots from the floor, as Auburn rallied to victory.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 19 of 61 shots from the field (31.1 percent), 1 of 13 shots from 3-point range (7.7 percent) and 2 of 5 shots from the foul line (40.0 percent). The Tigers hit 17 of 51 shots from the field (33.3 percent), 3 of 9 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 8 of 15 shots from the foul line (53.3 percent).

MSU held a 46-35 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had seven assists and 20 turnovers, while the Tigers had 11 assists and 17 turnovers.

Bett paced the Lady Bulldogs with 15 points, while Porter added 10 points with eight rebounds. Each of those players had eight rebounds. Brown matched a career-high with 15 rebounds for MSU.

Auburn received 11 points each from Alverson and Smalley. Jordan Greenleaf had a team-high 10 rebounds.

MSU plays Georgia at 2 p.m. CT Sunday in Athens. That contest will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net South.