Lady Bulldogs Fall To Lehigh In Overtime

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Mississippi State rallied late to force overtime but could not close the deal as the Lady Bulldogs dropped a 68-59 decision to Lehigh in the championship game of the Lehigh Christmas City Classic played Thursday night in Stabler Arena.

Lehigh (9-5) built an early lead and held the momentum for most of the contest. However, the Lady Bulldogs (8-4) battled back from down seven midway through the second half to force overtime. In the extra five minutes, the Mountain Hawks enjoyed a 10-1 advantage, cruising to the victory.

The Mountain Hawks started off on fire. Lehigh quickly sprinted to a 12-2 advantage less than four minutes into the contest. Both teams supported from there. Lehigh still held a 14-7 lead after a four minute stretch where neither team scored.

The Lady Bulldogs were still down eight when Diamber Johnson rammed home a 3-point basket with 5:16 left before halftime. MSU would then piece together an 8-0 run with a 3-point by Porsha Porter giving the Maroon and White their first lead at 24-23 with 1:38 left before halftime.

The teams were tied 27-27 at the half.

The Lady Bulldogs actually scored the first four points of the game's final half but could not expand the lead. Lehigh grabbed a 35-34 lead on an Emily Gratch layup with 15:31 remaining.

The lead switched hands a couple of times before nine straight points by the Mountain Hawks placed Lehigh on top, 49-43. The Lady Bulldogs went 5:14 without a point before a 3-point by Porter ended that run.

MSU slowly rallied with a jumper by Ashley Brown placing the guests on top, 55-54 with 3:58 left in regulation. A 3-point by Diamber Johnson gave MSU a 58-57 lead with 2:32 left. However, the Lady Bulldogs did not score again in regulation.

Emily Gratch hit one of two free throws with 29 seconds left to tie the teams at 58-58 and extend the contest. Lehigh had missed three other potential game-tying free throws. The Lady Bulldogs failed to convert a final shot as regulation time expired.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 22 of 76 shots from the field (28.9 percent), 8 of 30 shots from 3-point range (26.7 percent) and 7 of 14 shots from the foul line (50.0 percent). The Mountain Hawks hit 21 of 55 shots from the field (38.2 percent), 5 of 23 shots from 3-point range (21.7 percent) and 21 of 30 shots from the foul line (70.0 percent).

Lehigh held a 51-46 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had nine assists and 11 turnovers, while the Mountain Hawks had 15 assists and 16 turnovers.

Johnson and Porter led MSU with 17 points apiece. Katia May was also in double figures with 10 points. Johnson dished out seven assists, while Brown had a team-high 10 rebounds.

For Lehigh, Gratch scored a game-high 25 points. Erica Prosser added 17 points, while Alexa Williams scored 10 points.

The Lady Bulldogs ring in the New Year and Southeastern Conference play with a 7 p.m. start at Vanderbilt Thursday. MSU returns home for Arkansas in a 3:30 p.m. start on Sunday, Jan. 9.

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