Beginning to resemble the Maroon and White of recent campaigns, Sharon Fanning's Lady Bulldogs won their 12th consecutive MSU Classic Saturday with an impressive 81-58 triumph over McNeese State at Humphrey Coliseum.
Meanwhile, Rick Stansbury's unblemished Bulldogs, rolling along at a breakaway pace, took on the rugged Santa Clara Broncos in California. Although, it took overtime for the Dogs to overtake the fired-up Broncos in an exciting, 66-61, victory on the West Coast, the Bulldogs' sixth-year head coach was very complimentary of his aggregation.
"Our kids found ways to make plays. It's a huge win for us and I'm proud of the guys, their effort," said Stansbury.
Seniors Timmy Bowers and Branden Vincent had key baskets in the extra period, but it was junior Winsome Frazier who sent the game into overtime on a clutch 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation.
On the threshold of breaking into the Top 25 teams in the country the past couple of weeks, the Bulldogs continue to gain ground in both the weekly Associated Press and USA-Today ESPN Polls that were released Monday.
Mississippi State rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to send the contest into the extra period. The Dogs allowed but one basket in the first eight minutes of the second half, perhaps inspired by the aggressive play of seven-foot center Marcus Campbell that no doubt helped get the Dogs back into the contest.
Stansbury said he couldn't be more proud of his kids for sticking together and finding a way to win although not playing one of their better games.
"We got down several times but our kids didn't panic. They made some big shots but we found ways to answer them. Sometimes you just have to survive."
Junior transfer Lawrence Roberts led all scorers, compiling a "double-double" with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Bowers had 17 points, including 6-of-6 off the line, and Frazier had 10 points and five steals. Campbell collected eight points and 10 rebounds and Vincent had eight points and eight rebounds.
"I thought Lawrence (Roberts) controlled the backboards the last few minutes," noted Stansbury. "I didn't think Frazier had a particularly good game, but I thought he made a big shot on a great decision by Timmy Bowers.
"It was a great win for us and I'm proud of these young men," said Stansbury, who'll give the players some time off before their next game, Dec. 27, at New Orleans, La. Tip-off for the match with the Green Wave is 3:30 p.m.
The Lady Bulldogs, who embark on a road swing beginning with a Dec. 28 date with UNLV at Las Vegas, Nev., put together two good games in the Mississippi State Classic.
MSU (5-4) built its first half lead to double figures, 24-14, and continued to add to the margin in the final ten minutes of the first half, taking a 41-27 lead.
"I think we saw a little spark from our team, and we looked like the team that you saw in Tupelo," said Fanning in reference to the Lady Dogs' 94-61 win over Tennessee-Martin earlier in the week at the BancorpSouth Center.
The Lady Bulldogs were led by Tan White and Seneca Anderson in scoring. An all-star candidate, White had 18 points, eight assists and four steals, while Anderson collected 18 points, tying her career-high with three blocks. Tiania Burns joined the duo in double-figures with 14 points while Blessing Chekwa had eight.
Mississippi State placed three players on the all-tournament team with Burns and White being named the co-MVPs. Anderson was also selected on the all-tourney team.
The Lady Bulldogs will be on the road for the next two outings, first stopping off Sunday at Las Vegas. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. CT.
Mississippi State will journey to Santa Barbara, Calif., the state Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs just departed, to face No. 20-ranked Santa Barbara Dec. 30 to close out the 2003 portion of the schedule.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Don Foster, a veteran newspaper writer who is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News, writes a weekly article for Gene's Page. He can be reached by email at email@example.com