Lady Bulldogs Fall Short at Louisiana Tech

RUSTON, La. – A late rally fell short for the Mississippi State women's basketball team Sunday afternoon. Trailing by eight with less than two minutes remaining, the Lady Bulldogs pulled even. However, MSU later missed its final two shots in the last eight seconds of the contest, falling 63-62 to Louisiana Tech at Thomas Assembly Center.

MSU (7-2) actually hit eight first-half 3-point baskets. The Lady Bulldogs parlayed the fast start to a 35-28 halftime lead. Louisiana Tech (4-6) grabbed its first second-half lead with 13 minutes remaining. The Maroon and White could not respond as it shot 29.4 percent from the floor in the second half, missed nine free throws and missed all nine 3-point attempts.

"After Louisiana Tech scored some baskets, they got some confidence," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "They became the aggressor and we didn't respond. To make the NCAA Tournament, you have to be Road Warriors and you have to make effort plays at the end of ballgames.

"For whatever reason, we became a little soft and lost our focus."

For MSU, Diamber Johnson and Porsha Porter hit back-to-back 3-point baskets to open the contest. The Lady Bulldogs led 9-2 less than three minutes in the contest. Again Johnson and Porter hit back-to-back treys to run the MSU advantage to 20-13.

Louisiana Tech scored the game's next nine points and took its only first-half lead at 22-20. A 3-pointer by MSU's Darriel Gaynor placed the Lady Bulldogs back on top, 25-22. The half would end with MSU going on an 8-3 run for a 35-28 halftime advantage.

"We really didn't have the production we needed around the rim," Fanning-Otis said. "The 3-point shots were falling in the first half. In the second half, we had our guard set some excellent screens. However, it didn't lead to the paint touches we needed.

"When you are trying to win a tight game, you need putback opportunities. You have to have more chances to score around the basket."

MSU's Ashley Brown split a pair of free throws to place MSU head 36-28. Louisiana Tech pulled even again with a 13-5 run creating a 41-41 tie. The teams would tie twice more, before the hosts seized the lead for good with a 9-0 run.

The Lady Bulldogs missed four shots from the field, two shots from the free throw line and turned the ball over once as Louisiana Tech sprinted to a 57-49 advantage.

Still MSU rallied once more. Down 61-53, the Lady Bulldogs used defensive pressure to spark a 7-0 run. A steal and layup by Porter brought the Maroon and White within 61-60 with 54 seconds left.

Louisiana Tech's Courtney Hayes hit one of two free throws before Johnson answered with a game-tying basket with 36 seconds left. Hayes again hit one of two free throws with 24 seconds left for a 63-62 lead.

The Lady Bulldogs then had the final shot, however Johnson missed a pair of baseline jumpers and the final rebound was being batted around as the game clock expired.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 22 of 66 shots from the field (33.3 percent), 8 of 25 shots from 3-point range (32.0 percent) and 10 of 21 shots from the foul line (47.6 percent). The Lady Techsters hit 21 of 61 shots from the field (34.4 percent), 5 of 17 shots from 3-point range (29.4 percent) and 16 of 29 shots from the foul line (55.2 percent).

"The free throw line was the big divider in the game," Fanning-Otis said. "When you aren't doing the little things right, it is from a lack of focus. We have to learn how to be mentally tough for 40 minutes to be able to win games like this."

MSU held a 51-45 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 10 assists and 18 turnovers, while the Lady Techsters had 12 assists and 16 turnovers.

Johnson paced MSU with 25 points, including a 10-for-28 night from the field. Johnson had five assists, three steals, a blocked shot and also hit three 3-pointers. Porter matched a season-high with 23 points, including a 7-of-16 night from the field, with four 3-pointers, and a 5-of-11 night at the foul line.

Louisiana Tech received 12 points from Jasmine Bendolph.

The Lady Bulldogs return home for a two-game homestand. MSU hosts Southern Miss at 7 p.m. Friday and Louisiana-Lafayette at 7 p.m. Dec. 19.

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