Johnson Powers Lady Bulldogs Past Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. – A tenacious defensive effort led the Mississippi State women's basketball team to its second straight road win in Southeastern Conference action.

The Lady Bulldogs held arch-rival Ole Miss to 27 percent shooting to post a 51-46 victory Thursday night in Tad Smith Coliseum. For the Lady Bulldogs, it was their lowest point total allowed in a league game this season. The road win came exactly one week after an impressive 66-61 triumph at Alabama.

With the victory, MSU improved to 12-6 overall and 2-3 in league play, while Ole Miss fell to 12-7 and 2-4. The Lady Bulldogs have won four straight in the series and six of the last seven. The victory also meant back-to-back wins in Lafayette County as MSU posted a 59-43 victory here a season ago.

"We talk about finding a way all the time and that is what we did tonight," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "Anytime you win on the road in this league, it is a big plus. It was a team win, too. We had 13 players in the rotation tonight.

"Everybody on the bench stepped up and played well. Everybody contributed in a rivalry win."

The Lady Bulldogs held the better of the activity in each half of a physical, intense defensive struggle. MSU led by as many as 10 points in the first half and as many as eight points in the second half. Still, the contest remained in doubt, thanks to four tied scores and five lead changes.

MSU erased an early 6-4 deficit by scoring 11 straight points. Danielle Rector hit a go-ahead 3-pointer. The Maroon and White ran the lead to 15-6 with six straight points from Diamber Johnson.

A Kendra Grant 3-pointer moved the lead to a game-best 10-point advantage at 18-8. Ole Miss still trailed 22-14 before piecing together a 7-0 run over a three-minute stretch.

A pair of Valencia McFarland free throws tied the game at 23. A follow-up free throw by Tia Faleru pushed the Rebels to a 24-23 advantage at halftime.

"In the second half, we raised our shooting percentage by more than 20 points," Fanning-Otis said. "Ole Miss had six players with really great offensive rebounding statistics. We knew our challenge was to crash the boards hard.

"Our ability to limit their second shots was really huge."

Ole Miss held its last lead 26-25 before MSU seized control for good with an 11-2 run. A putback basket by Catina Bett sparked the run. Grant and Johnson followed with back-to-back scores.

Ole Miss scored the game's next six points to close within 36-34. A layup by Kenyotta Jenkins brought the hosts within 43-42 with 4:54 left in the contest.

The Lady Bulldogs answered with a layup by Porsha Porter and a nice spinning move in the lane, which led to an old-fashioned 3-point play by Porter. A follow-up 3-point basket by Johnson proved the final dagger for the guests.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 19 of 56 shots from the field (33.9 percent), 4 of 9 shots from 3-point range (44.4 percent) and 9 of 12 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent). The Lady Rebels hit 17 of 64 shots from the field (26.6 percent), 3 of 20 shots from 3-point range (15.0 percent) and 9 of 20 shots from the foul line (45.0 percent).

Ole Miss held a 45-44 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had eight assists and 15 turnovers, while the Lady Rebels had nine assists and 10 turnovers.

Johnson, a Pontotoc native playing her final game in the arena, led the Lady Bulldogs with 21 points. With a 3-1 record in her career here, Johnson averaged 11.5 points per contest in those four games.

Porter added nine points and a team-high six rebounds, while Martha Alwal also had six rebounds.

Ole Miss received a double-double from Nikki Byrd (12 points, 14 rebounds), as well as a game-high 14 points from McFarland.

MSU hosts Auburn at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Official Game Stats

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