Lady Bulldogs Stun Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. - Super Sunday turned out to be mighty super for the Mississippi State women's basketball team. The Lady Bulldogs finally broke into the Southeastern Conference victory column with a hard-earned 57-45 victory over Auburn Sunday afternoon in the new AU Arena.

After dropping a pair of hard-fought games at home last week, MSU shook those woes, while snapping a 10-game losing streak. The Maroon and White won for only the fourth time ever on the Plains. However, coupled with last season's victory, the Lady Bulldogs have now won back-to-back trips to Auburn.

MSU improved to 9-13 overall and 1-9 in league play, while Auburn fell to 13-10 and 6-4.

"We took better care of the basketball," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "We played with more confidence. Hopefully, this is the type of win that will give us some confidence. Any road win any time in any year is a big one. Hopefully, this will be the first with many more league wins to come.

"This should grow our expectations. We have gotten better as a team as the season progressed. Today, we got the results had been looking for."

The Lady Bulldogs were tremendous on the defensive end. In the second half, Auburn was held to 17 points. It marked the second time this season the MSU defense has held a conference opponent to 17 or fewer points in a half. Ironically, the other time was when Auburn scored 16 first-half points in a 45-41 victory last month in Starkville.

In the rematch, MSU found the answer on the offensive end. The Lady Bulldogs out-rebounded Auburn. MSU also hit 8-of-15 shots from 3-point range, including a 5-of-6 night from Porsha Porter beyond the arc.

"Our toughness was good," Fanning-Otis said. "Other than a couple of possessions, we took some really good shots. We played hard on defense. The bottom line is we forced more turnovers. We took advantage of those turnovers. We got some points off turnovers. In the 2nd half, we got the ball in the paint more.

"We connected on some of the things that we have been stressing in practice."

Both teams had strong offensive halves in a competitive first half.

The Lady Bulldogs eased out to an early 11-6 advantage. Auburn scored the game's next eight points to take a 14-11 advantage. The Lady Bulldogs battled back on top with five straight points. Danielle Rector sank two free throws to put MSU ahead 16-14.

The lead switched hands a couple of more times in the first half. A 3-pointer by Porter with 2:02 left in the half gave the Lady Bulldogs a 29-28 advantage at the break.

In the opening stages of the second half, the Lady Bulldogs took control of the contest.

Reaching the level of aggression that Fanning-Otis has been stressing the past two weeks, the Lady Bulldogs moved the ball inside to Catina Bett, who delivered one of her best performances of the year. On the defensive end, the Lady Bulldogs had almost all the answers - forcing 23 turnovers, the most by a conference opponent this season.

Bett finished with six points, two blocks and career-high 11 rebounds.

MSU scored the first eight points of the second half, with things being started by back-to-back baskets from Bett. A fast-break layup by Porter extended the lead to 37-28 with 17:44 left in the contest. MSU went more than four minutes before scoring again; however, Auburn failed to take the lead.

Porter stopped an 8-0 run by the hosts by draining another 3-point basket. That trey placed MSU on top 40-36 with 12:19 left. After Auburn closed within a pair, the Maroon and White scored seven straight to grab a 47-38 advantage.

Auburn hit only 7-of-26 shots from the field in the game's final half and drew no closer than nine points over the final 9:15.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 22 of 58 shots from the field (37.9 percent), 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range (53.3 percent) and 5 of 7 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent). The Tigers hit 17 of 51 shots from the field (33.3 percent), 4 of 11 shots from 3-point range (36.4 percent) and 7 of 10 shots from the foul line (70.0 percent).

MSU held a 38-37 rebounding advantage. MSU had 15 assists and 20 turnovers, while AU had 10 assists and 23 turnovers.

Fresh off a 30-point performance in Thursday's 66-61 loss to Alabama, Porter again led the Lady Bulldogs, with 21 points. Mary Kathryn Govero added 12 points.

Auburn received 19 points from Blanche Alverson and 12 points from Chantel Hilliard.

The Lady Bulldogs remain on the road for a Thursday night contest at in-state rival Ole Miss. Game time is set for 7 p.m. inside the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford.

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