Lady Bulldogs Rally To Defeat Auburn, 62-57

STARKVILLE, Miss. –Mississippi State women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning-Otis encouraged her team to keep believing Sunday afternoon. The Lady Bulldogs did believe. In the end, they believed enough to erase a 15-point first-half deficit to knock off Auburn 62-57 in a Southeastern Conference matchup played in the Humphrey Coliseum.

"When we were down big we were in the huddle and asked the girls ‘Do you believe we can win this game'?" Fanning-Otis said. "When you are down, you have to believe you can win. You don't have any chance to come back unless you really believe you can make the plays to win a game."

MSU improved to 13-6 overall and 3-3 in league play, while Auburn fell to 10-10 and 2-5. The Lady Bulldogs won their first conference home game, while winning a third straight against Auburn for the third time in school history. MSU knocked off Auburn in this arena for the first time since a 75-68 overtime triumph in 2005.

"We had to keep our heads in the game," MSU senior guard Diamber Johnson said. "When your shots aren't falling, how do you respond to that? We knew it was going to be a battle so our job was to stay committed to what we were trying to do. I am proud of the way we fought back."

The Lady Bulldogs had a first-half stretch where it went close to 10 minutes without scoring a single point. Auburn scored 13 straight points during the draught to pull away from an 11-11 tie. Auburn later ran the lead to a game-best advantage at 28-13 on a layup by Jassany Williams.

MSU got the final seven points of the first half, including a 3-pointer as the extended first half horn expired, pulling the Lady Bulldogs within 28-20 at the intermission.

Despite the struggles, the hosts did shoot 36.4 percent from the field in the first half. However, the stat sheet also showed Auburn with 12 more shots from the field and a plus-11 rebounding advantage. MSU also did not aid its cause with 12 turnovers in the first half.

"The key to the second half was a positive turnover-to-assist ratio," Fanning-Otis said. "We turn the ball over four times in the second half. They have two really good 3-point shooters and we did a better job of locating them in the second half."

Johnson also sparkled in the game's final half, as she totaled 17 of her game-high 27 points in the final half. The Pontotoc native is now 19th all-time on the MSU scoring list, while needing only 48 more points to hit 1,000 for her Bulldog career.

Auburn scored the first four points of the second half, before the Maroon and White express began to rally. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Johnson brought the hosts within 38-34.

Down 43-36, the Lady Bulldogs scored 10 straight points to storm ahead. Kendra Grant was fouled on a 3-point make, which brought the team within 43-42. A Porsha Porter layup gave MSU a 44-43 lead.

The lead was short-lived as Auburn moved back on top 53-48 with 6:22 left. MSU finally pulled back even at 55 on back-to-back jumpers by Johnson with 3:39 left. Another Johnson score gave MSU a 57-55 lead.

After Auburn tied the game, a steal by Martha Alwal led to one successful free throw by Porter for a 58-57 lead with 2:00 left. Alwal then had a critical defensive rebound, which led to two free throws by Johnson with 1:35 left. An Alwal layup closed out the scoring with 40 seconds left.

"If a team continues to work hard and learns how to play together, they can find a way to win some games," Fanning-Otis said. "That is what we have done this week."

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 25 of 54 shots from the field (46.3 percent), 6 of 22 shots from 3-point range (27.3 percent) and 6 of 18 shots from the foul line (33.3 percent). The Tigers hit 21 of 60 shots from the field (35.0 percent), 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 8 of 12 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

Auburn held a 45-32 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 12 assists and 16 turnovers, while the Tigers had 13 assists and 22 turnovers.

Grant added a career-high 15 points for the Lady Bulldogs. Alwal just missed a double-double with nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds, to go along with five blocked shots.

Auburn received 16 points from Blanche Alverson and 12 points from Camille Glymph. Chantel Hilliard had a game-high 11 rebounds.

MSU will look for a third straight conference win when it hosts Arkansas at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Official Game Stats

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