Miss. State Lady Bulldogs drop SEC opener to Florida

By School report

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State let a late nine-point lead slip away as the Lady Bulldogs dropped a 53-48 decision to LSU in a Southeastern Conference women’s basketball game played Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum.

MSU dropped its fourth straight in the series, despite holding LSU to its lowest point total in 22 career meetings in this arena. The Lady Bulldogs fell to 10-4 overall and 0-1 in league play, while the Lady Tigers improved to 11-3 and 2-0. LSU makes it a Magnolia State sweep as the Lady Tigers knocked off Ole Miss 83-44 in Oxford earlier this week.

The Lady Bulldogs actually held a 40-31 lead with 9:15 left in the contest. The lead was still 46-39 with 6:16 left to play. However, the Maroon and White surrendered a 14-2 run to end the contest. The Lady Bulldogs went almost six minutes without scoring before Catina Bett hit a layup with 22 seconds left.

“We were passive on offense down the stretch,” MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “The other key was rebounding. They got some extra looks at the basket and that really hurt us. LSU is strong and physical. They had several players who could go and get boards.

“We have to learn how to be tougher for longer stretches of time.”

This contest matched statistically two of the best defenses in the conference. Both defenses delivered as each team shot less than 35 percent from the field. The score was tied five times and the lead changed hands five times.

MSU erased an early 7-4 deficit by scoring seven straight points. The Lady Bulldogs then ran the advantage to 16-9 on a 3-point basket by Kendra Grant. Both teams struggled inside missing numerous shots inside the paint.

LSU climbed back into the contest as defensive pressure helped piece together a 10-0 run. A tip-in by LaSondra Barrett placed the Lady Tigers on top 19-16 with 3:22 left in the half. The hosts battled back for a 22-21 advantage on a 3-point basket by Darriel Gaynor.

MSU led 23-21 at halftime.

“This is the SEC and you really have to be mentally tough to compete,” Fanning-Otis said. “Defensively, we played well. Offensively, we didn’t make enough shots and did not have the type of effort you to have on the boards. Our effort was really good and we placed ourselves in a position.

“However, we have to learn how to be mentally tougher when the game is on the line.”

The Lady Bulldogs quickly built a 32-25 lead with a 9-2 run over the early stages of the second half. A tenacious defensive effort coupled with strong ball movement allowed the Maroon and White to hold that advantage for much of the half.

A 3-point basket by Danielle Rector ran the Lady Bulldogs out to a 38-29 advantage with 11:07 left. The lead was again at nine at 40-31. Defensive pressure allowed the guests to reel off six straight points, closing within 40-37.

Four points by Catina Bett helped allow the Maroon and White to push the lead back out to 46-39 before the big game-deciding run. The Lady Bulldogs then missed six straight shots from the field and a pair of critical free throws when the lead was one with 3:00 left.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 20 of 58 shots from the field (34.5 percent), 6 of 22 shots from 3-point range (27.3 percent) and 2 of 8 shots from the foul line (25.0 percent). The Lady Tigers hit 20 of 62 shots from the field (32.3 percent), 2 of 9 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 11 of 15 shots from the foul line (73.3 percent).

LSU held a 43-41 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 10 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Lady Tigers had eight assists and 13 turnovers.

Destini Hughes paced LSU with 17 points, while Barrett scored 13 points and Courtney Jones added 11 points. Bett and Grant had 11 points apiece for MSU. The Lady Bulldogs’ leading scorer Diamber Johnson was held to six points of 3-of-11 shooting but dish out five assists.

MSU returns to action Sunday with a road trip to No. 9 Kentucky. Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington. The contest will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net South.