Lady Bulldogs open SEC play with 73-58 win at Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. – Mississippi State’s Mary Kathryn Govero scored a career-high 22 points as the Lady Bulldogs defeated Auburn 73-58 in a Southeastern Conference women’s basketball gamed played Sunday afternoon on the plains.

MSU won its conference opener for the first time in three seasons. The Lady Bulldogs also snapped a four-game losing streak against the Lady Tigers. MSU won for only the third-time ever in the final season of Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. It was also the first win in this arena since 2003.

MSU won for the seventh time in its last eight games, while moving to 10-4 overall and 1-0 in league play, Auburn is now 9-5 and 0-1.

“Credit to the girls for a very good, very balanced team effort,” MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “Due to injury, we had some young people playing key roles against veteran players. Everybody stepped up and found a way to make a play. This is a very good way to start the conference season with a huge road win.”

The Lady Bulldogs played without the services of senior guard Tysheka Grimes. Grimes injured her foot during a practice session on Friday. However, without Grimes, MSU still rose up and found a way to put the homestanding Lady Tigers away with a huge second half.

After a nip-and-tuck first half where neither team shot well, Auburn led 30-29 at halftime. The Lady Bulldogs shot 52 percent from the field in the final half and forced 13 second-half turnovers by the hosts.

The Lady Bulldogs took the first lead of the contest when Govero sank the second half’s first basket with 19:16 remaining. That was a far cry from the opening half when each team combined to miss their first 17 field goal attempts. Auburn led by as many as seven in the opening half (25-18) before MSU responded, thanks in part to a four-point play by Govero, who was fouled on a made 3-point attempt.

The second half lead changed hands five more times before the Lady Bulldogs took over matters for good. A pair of Chanel Mokango free throws gave MSU the lead for good at 46-45 with 11:37 remaining. Those points opened up a game-deciding 9-0 run.

Auburn went more than three minutes without scoring during that run. Armelie Lumanu had two of MSU’s 14 steals during that burst. From there AU tried to rally, but got no closer than six points the remainder of the way.

“In the second half, we only had three turnovers,” Fanning-Otis said. “You do that and shoot 52 percent from the field then you have a chance to win a lot of ballgames. Defensively, we played with more effort in the final, got into some passing lanes and made some things happen on that end.”

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 24 of 58 shots from the field (41.4 percent), 7 of 26 shots from 3-point range (26.9 percent) and 18 of 21 shots from the foul line (85.7 percent). The Lady Tigers hit 23 of 65 shots from the field (35.4 percent), 2 of 14 shots from 3-point range (14.3 percent) and 10 of 15 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

Auburn held a 47-31 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 15 assists and 10 turnovers, while the Lady Tigers had 10 assists and 17 turnovers. MSU also recorded an amazing 14 steals in the contest.

Govero’s career nigh included an 8-for-14 performance from the field, with three 3-point baskets. Also in double figures for MSU were Rack with 17 points, Lumanu with a double double (13 points and 10 rebounds) and Mokango with 12 points. Lumanu also had four assists and six steals.

Auburn received 18 points and 10 rebounds from KeKe Carrier, who played sparingly in the first half due to foul trouble. Alli Smalley added 14 points, while Morgan Toles added 10 points. Jordan Greenlead had a team-high 16 rebounds, including nine on the defensive end.

The Lady Bulldogs now return home for a pair of games. MSU will host No. 16 Vanderbilt at 8 p.m. Thursday and No. 4 Tennessee at 1 p.m. Sunday. Both contests will be televised regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.

Miss. State Media Relations