STARKVILLE – Playing its first contest as a ranked team in six seasons, the Mississippi State women’s basketball team moved to 3-0 by routing Utah Valley 81-35 Thursday night Humphrey Coliseum.
On Monday, the Lady Bulldogs entered the Associated Press Top 25 at No. 25. For the MSU women’s program, it is their first ranking since 2003. Thursday night, that lofty mark was never in doubt as the Lady Bulldogs opened with a 32-3 run and cruised to their third victory in as many starts.
“Right now, it is about giving a good effort, giving 100 pct all of the time,” MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “You have to be in a position to close out games. We did a good job tonight. Our intensity was good and our focus was good.”
MSU forced the Great West Conference-member Wolverines (2-2) into 33 turnovers. While the Lady Bulldogs did not have their best offensive night, it was certainly enough to outman the Wolverines. MSU placed five players in double figures and shot at a 42-percent clip from the field in both halves.
The Lady Bulldogs actually trailed for the first time this season when Utah Valley scored off the opening tip. The hosts then reeled off the game’s next 14 points. Utah Valley actually went 16:02 between field goals. When Kayla Burningham stopped the draught by ramming home a 3-point basket, MSU already held a commanding 36-10 advantage.
The Lady Bulldogs led 41-14 at halftime.
In the game’s final half, Utah Valley again scored first with another Burningham 3-point basket. The hosts then reeled off a 19-7 run to take a 36-point advantage, at 60-24 with 12:50 remaining. MSU led by as many as 49 before settling for the easy victory.
“Offensively, we were in a position some times in both halves and didn’t finish,” Fanning-Otis said. “We call a play and get in position and don’t finish. But those are the kinds of things we will work on. Defensively, we did a good job of forcing turnovers. Our effort was good on that end of the floor.”
For MSU, Diamber Johnson tied a career high with 10 points. Also in double figures were Alexis Rack with 16 points, Tysheka Grimes with 14 points, birthday girl Mary Kathryn Govero with 13 points and Chanel Mokango with 10 points. Rima Kalonda had a team-high nine rebounds.
Burningham finished with 11 points to pace UVU.
For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 31 of 73 shots from the field (42.5 percent), 10 of 30 shots from the foul line (33.3 percent) and 9 of 14 shots from 3-point range (64.3 percent). The Wolverines hit 12 of 42 shots from the field (28.6 percent), 4 of 12 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 7 of 11 shots from the foul line (63.6 percent).
MSU had 22 assists and 15 turnovers, while UVU had five assists and 33 turnovers.
The Lady Bulldogs close their season-opening, four-game homestand by hosting Maryland in a 2 p.m. start Sunday afternoon in the Humphrey Coliseum.
Miss. State Athletics