News from MSU Media Relations--Nov. 6

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Volleyball, Women's Basketball, Men's Basketball and Women's Tennis.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - No. 16 Tennessee maintained its place atop the SEC volleyball standings Sunday afternoon with a 3-1 decision (25-22, 23-25, 25-16, 25-14) over Mississippi State I10-15/5-11 SEC) at Thompson-Boling Arena. Senior Caitlin Rance delivered a match-high 17 kills, but UT (22-3/14-1 SEC) amassed a 62-43 bulge in kills to claim their 10th win in as many home matches this fall.

Rance hit a team-best .304 with nine digs while Faith Steinwedell finished with eight kills and eight digs. State enjoyed a measure of success at the net, leading UT in total team blocking 11.5 to 10. Senior middle Hannah Wilkinson took match honors with six blocks while Chanelle Baker backed her seven-kill performance with five blocks.

A trio of Lady Vols reached double figures in kills. Kelsey Robinson and Leslie Cikra had 15 kills each and Tiffany Baker, younger sister of MSU junior Chanelle Baker, followed with 11.

A slow start doomed the Bulldog in the opening set, with the Lady Vols bolting to a 7-1 lead and hitting at a crisp .405 percentage en route to a 25-22 win. But State warmed up on offense, getting five-kill efforts from Steinwedell and Rance and closing the gap with the 16th-ranked Lady Vols midway in the opening stanza. Robinson and Cikra combined for 12 of UT's 18 kills.

MSU stayed close with UT in the early going of the second set and parlayed a pair of 5-0 runs into a match-evening 25-23 win. Solid play at the net sparked State's play midway in the set. Rance tied the score at 14-14 with a solo rejection and the tandem of Chanelle Baker and Lainey Wyman combined for blocks on the next two UT attacks to put State ahead 16-14. The Vols surged back into control with a 4-0 spree and a 23-20 lead. But State battled back, reeling off the next five points for a 25-23 win. Rance had six of State's 12 kills in the frame, including three straight to seal the MSU win.

The Bulldogs were unable to maintain their momentum gained in the second set as Tennessee's balanced attack took control. UT took control of the third set with an early 9-2 run en route to a 25-16 decision and out-pointed the Bulldogs 7-2 to start the fourth stanza on the way to a match-clinching 25-14 win.

The Bulldogs continue SEC competition on the road next weekend, taking on the Georgia Bulldogs Nov. 11 in Athens, Ga., before batting Western Division rival Auburn in a regionally-televised (SportSouth) match at Auburn.

Women's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's Diamber Johnson poured in a game-high 24 points as the Lady Bulldogs rolled over Arkansas-Fort Smith 84-48 in a women's basketball exhibition game played Sunday afternoon in the Humphrey Coliseum.

The Lady Bulldogs controlled the contest from start to finish. MSU excelled on the defensive end, holding the Lady Lions to 21.5 percent field goal shooting, while forcing 17 turnovers. Offensively, Johnson was joined in double figures by Porsha Porter with 20 points and Ashley Brown with 10 points.

"Hopefully, we can work our way toward more balance," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "We had too many opportunities under the basket where we did not finish. However, I think our effort keeps getting better. We have come a long way since the start of practice.

"Now, the challenge is to continue to get better."

The contest was never in doubt as the Lady Bulldogs used a 16-1 run to build an 18-3 lead less than nine minutes into the contest. Arkansas-Fort Smith, an NCAA Division II member from the Heartland Conference, struggled to find any type of offensive rhythm in the opening half.

The Lady Lions connected on only 4-of-38 shots from the field for 10.5 percent shooting in the opening half.

After Fort Smith scored five straight points to close within 21-9, the Lady Bulldogs seized complete control of the contest with a 13-3 run to open up a 34-12 lead with 3:29 left in the half.

Johnson had 14 first-half points and three assists on 5-of-9 shooting from the field.

"For the most part, our ball movement was good," Fanning-Otis said. "We were looking at several different combinations. We didn't get as many opportunities out of the transition game as we would have liked. It is all about teamwork and building chemistry. The girls are getting better at court awareness and knowing one another."

Thanks to 41.2 shooting on the offensive end, the Maroon and White eased into a 36-18 advantage at halftime.

An Ashley Brown layup capped a 9-0 run for the Lady Bulldogs over the first two minutes of the second half. The lead pushed past 30 points on a 3-point basket by Shamia Robinson. Robinson's tray capped another 9-0 run and ran the advantage to 59-28 with 12:28 left in regulation.

The lead grew to as many as 38 in the closing minutes.

"Defensively, we have to be in a position where we tell the other team no more often," Fanning-Otis said. "We have to do a better job of taking what the other team wants to do away from them. Our progress on the defensive end has been good. I am happy with the effort.

"We just have to be a little more physical and impose our will a little more. It is a work in the progress. We will get there."

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 31 of 72 shots from the field (43.1 percent), 5 of 18 shots from 3-point range (27.8 percent) and 17 of 30 shots from the foul line (56.7 percent). The Lady Lions hit 14 of 65 shots from the field (21.5 percent), 0 of 13 shots from 3-point range (0.0 percent) and 20 of 30 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

The Lady Bulldogs held a 55-48 rebounding advantage. MSU had 14 assists and 17 turnovers, while Fort Smith had four assists and 21 turnovers.

Coby Hill paced Arkansas-Fort Smith with 13 points.

The Lady Bulldogs open their 38th season of women's basketball competition Friday night by hosting Ohio Valley Conference foe Jacksonville State University. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum. A win in that contest would be Mississippi State's 300th home victory.

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Not only does Mississippi State usher in a new season on Monday against Eastern Kentucky, the Bulldogs officially launch their 100th year of basketball in what will be a year-long celebration.

The game at Humphrey Coliseum, scheduled to tip at 7 p.m., is part of the 2011 2K Sports Classic that continues on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against Akron on ESPNU and concludes the following week at Madison Square Garden in New York City against a field that features Texas A&M, Arizona and St. John's.

The Bulldogs open the 2011-12 campaign after posting a 2-0 record in exhibition play following Friday's 94-70 victory against defending NAIA national champion Pikeville.

"It all counts now," said 14th-year MSU coach Rick Stansbury, who currently ranks 11th in SEC history with 272 victories, just six shy of moving into the Top 10. "As I've said many times, I like the talent we have, and we have the type of schedule that will test us early."

The Bulldogs, who are 23-2 all-time against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference, are coming off 17-14 year that ended without a postseason bid for the first time in five years. Two starters return from that unit in senior guard Dee Bost and junior forward Renardo Sidney, along with a list of other players that saw ample playing time in Brian Bryant, Wendell Lewis, Jalen Steele and Shaun Smith.

"Our focus has been great," said Bost, who in October was voted co-captain. "Everyone is on the same page our goal is to win a championship."

The Bulldogs face a Colonels team that returns two starters from last year's 15-16 squad. Monday also marks just the second meeting between the two schools, with MSU claiming a 75-62 victory in Stansbury's first year at the helm.

"They run that Princeton style offense," Stansbury said of EKU. "They offset what they don't have by spreading you out on defense and shooting 3s. It is different when a team has their five position player shooting 3s against you. It can present some problems."

Under Stansbury, the Bulldogs are 10-3 in season openers. Overall, MSU is 77-22 in lid-lifters and has won 21 of its last 26 dating back to the 1985-86 campaign.

Monday also marks the earliest Mississippi State has ever opened a season, topping the previous mark of Nov. 10, 2007, vs. Louisiana Tech at the Hump.

Women's Tennis
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Mississippi State women's tennis squad wrapped up their participation in the Eck Fall Classic Sunday.

The day's action held two singles matches for the Lady Bulldogs, featuring Petra Ferancova and Roseline Dion, both against players from host Notre Dame.

Ferancova went up against Christine McGaffigan of Notre Dame, but was unable to pull out the victory, falling 6-2, 6-0.

Dion faced the Fighting Irish's Jennifer Kellner, but dropped a 6-1, 6-1 decision.

The Lady Bulldogs will compete in their last tournament of the fall season next weekend at the Lakewood Ranch Intercollegiate Clay Courts in Sarasota, Fla.

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