MSU Surges Past Savannah St. for Win, 56-42

SAVANNAH, Ga. – Mississippi State parlayed a brilliant defensive effort and a career-high 18 points from Ashley Brown into a 56-42 victory over Savannah State in a women's basketball game played Saturday afternoon at Tiger Arena.

The Lady Bulldogs (5-1) only allowed three second-half field goals. MSU was nursing a 26-25 lead at halftime. Savannah State (3-2) did not convert its first field goal of the final half until 7:26 remained in the contest.

"I thought we came out with more focus in the second half," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "We stuck to our game plan and played better basketball together."

Brown went 7-for-9 from the field and 4-for-5 from the free-throw line as she bettered her previous personal-best of 17 set last season against North Texas. Brown came one rebound shy of a double-double as she pulled in nine boards, including six on the offensive glass.

"Ashley did a great job in terms of her energy and effort. Catina (Bett) kept playing hard and communicating despite being in foul trouble. Porsha (Porter) did a great job defending their best player, and Darriel Gaynor gave us some good minutes off the bench," Fanning-Otis said. "It was a team win today. Hopefully we can continue to grow as a team and become a more consistent basketball team.

For Fanning-Otis, this was career win No. 599. Fanning-Otis is now 599-445 in 35 seasons of coaching Division I basketball. With one more victory, she will become the 14th active coach in Division I women's basketball with 600 or more victories.

The teams played a nip-and-tuck first half. Neither team led by more than six points in that half. Each team shot better than 33 percent from the field, while the lead changed hands on three different occasions.

An 8-0 run over the first four minutes of play lifted the Maroon and White to an 8-2 advantage. The run was capped by a 3-point basket from Kendra Grant. The lead still remained at four before Savannah State reeled off a 7-0 run of its own.

A 3-point play by Jasmine Kirkland gave Savannah State a 13-12 lead. The Lady Tigers then hit one of two free throws on two different possessions to run the lead to 15-12. The Lady Bulldogs went more than seven minutes between baskets before Ashley Brown hit a layup to break the draught.

A 3-point basket by Porter ran MSU back out to a 24-20 advantage. The Lady Bulldogs eased into halftime with a 26-25 lead.

In the final half, the Lady Bulldogs played lights-out defense to close out their first true road win of the season. Savannah State hit only 3-of-21 second-half shots and also committed six of the game's 10 turnovers.

A 12-1 run allowed MSU to sprint out to a 38-26 advantage with 16:37 left in the contest. A 3-pointer by Gaynor capped the run.

The lead stayed in the double figures range before Gaynor ran it to 14 on an old-fashioned 3-point play. The free throw make meant MSU led 45-31 with 10:19 left.

MSU would build the lead to 15 on two different occasions before posting the victory.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 19 of 51 shots from the field (37.3 percent), 4 of 18 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 14 of 18 shots from the foul line (77.8 percent). The Lady Tigers hit 12 of 48 shots from the field (25.0 percent), 2 of 12 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 16 of 28 shots from the foul line (57.1 percent).

MSU held a 43-31 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had eight assists and 13 turnovers, while the Lady Tigers had two assists and 10 turnovers.

In addition to Brown's career-high 18, Diamber Johnson, Porter, Grant and Gaynor each added eight points. Johnson had a team-high three assists, while Bett blocked four shots.

Savannah State placed three players in double figures. The Lady Tigers received 14 points from Ezinne Kalu, 12 points from Jasmine Kirkland and 10 points from Blessing Uba. Alisha Nelson had a game-high 10 rebounds for the Lady Tigers.

The Lady Bulldogs host South Alabama at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

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