Rack leads Mississippi St. past Maryland 84-55

STARKVILLE — Alexis Rack was feeling it.

The Mississippi State guard scored a career-high 43 points — tied for the fourth-best single-game total for a Bulldogs women’s basketball player — to lead her 25th-ranked team to a convincing 84-55 win over Maryland on Sunday. And at times she felt like she couldn’t miss.

“Sometimes I was just letting it go,” Rack admitted.

And hitting more often than not.

The senior scored every way possible, driving the lane for layups early, following her own misses for putbacks and hitting 7 of 13 3-point shots, falling just five points shy of LaToya Thomas’ school record of 48 points, set in 2000.

She was simply too fast for Maryland (3-1) and her Mississippi State (3-0) teammates didn’t mind watching her go at the Terrapins.

“When Alexis is shooting like that,” Mary Kathryn Govero said, “I tell her, ‘You keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll get the rebound if you miss.'”

Rack’s contributions didn’t stop with her offense. She had a team-leading six of 21 assists and was key in the Bulldogs’ stifling defensive effort that forced 27 Terrapin turnovers and included 10 steals.

After allowing Maryland’s first basket, Mississippi State ripped off a 15-1 run that featured two 3-pointers from Rack and a hustle play that made the Terrapins look a little like their namesake. She shot and missed a 3, skirted the Maryland defense, grabbed the rebound, beat two defenders and hit a short jumper.

By the time Mississippi State got done with an 11-0 run a few minutes later, Rack had scored 12 points, handed out four assists and helped force eight turnovers for a 28-8 lead with just 10:10 gone.

Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning-Otis called it a “statement” game, but Maryland coach Brenda Frese summed it up best.

“Obviously we had no answer for Rack,” Frese said. “She played like an all-American.”

The Bulldogs led by as much as 24 in the first half on the way to a 48-25 halftime lead and used a 9-0 run at the start of the second half to ice the Terrapins, usually one of the nation’s dominant teams.

Everyone expected a close game, but Mississippi State has eight seniors to Maryland’s nine underclassmen and took advantage of its experience to let everyone know the Bulldogs will be a factor this year.

“We just wanted to make a statement,” Rack said. “If you’re over there on the other side, come ready.”

That’s a warning that will precede the Bulldogs as they head for the Virgin Islands next week for a holiday tournament that features games with No. 10 Texas, Rutgers and Southern Cal.

“We have something to prove to ourselves,” Rack said. “Every game as we go farther in our schedule is getting tougher.”

Chris Talbott/The Associated Press