Ladydogs Win MSU Classic

Coach Sharon Fanning has been looking for leadership from her veterans. In the championship game of the MSU Classic, the coach saw it…as did everyone reading the all-tournament roster.

Senior guard Tan White poured in 29 points to lead Mississippi State past Louisiana-Monroe 81-50 in Monday night's title game. The Bulldogs, who won their seventh-straight game, improved to 8-2 while the Indians fell to 5-4.

White, who scored just 13 points in Sunday's first-round win over San Jose State, had a much more productive evening against ULM. She hit 10-of-19 shots and all eight free throws and was the runaway winner in voting for the Tournament Most Valuable Player. "Maybe it was better shot selection tonight," said White, who attempted—and made—only one three-point attempt. "But they didn't play the defenses San Jose State did, it enabled me to get some wide-open looks and a lot of layups." In the process she earned her fourth career tourney-MVP award.

Teammates Doceide Warren and Rebecca Kates each won their first all-tourney team awards. Senior Kates, MSU's scoring leader against San Jose State, had just six points in the title game but hit all three of her field goal attempts. Junior Warren pitched in eight points in this win with three assists and a pair of steals. "I'm proud of them," Fanning said. "We expect that out of our experienced players and all three of them came through. Tan picked up her game a level and that was reflected in the score." Senior guard Tiania Burns was the other Dog in double-digits at 12 points.

The Indians got 17 points from Nina Randle, the only player in double-digits. Yet ULM kept the game competitive much of the first half, even taking a 23-18 lead at 4:41 on a layup by Aishie Banks. But the Bulldogs ran into halftime on a 14-1 tear with eight points from White. "I knew she was going to take over this game," said ULM Coach Mona Martin. "And she did."

The rest of the MSU lineup got more involved in the second half as the Bulldogs stretched the margin to 10, then 14, and 18 points (46-28) by 13:38. With the Indians shut down on offense State's lead reached 31 points at 7:14, and a high of 81-49 with 29 seconds left. Early bench-clearing allowed ULM to catch up in total rebounding, but before then the Dogs had dominated on the boards and tough, aggressive defense contributed to 23 Indian turnovers. "That's the most physical game we've played this year," Martin said. "They let us play and we just didn't get physical with them." ULM's Michelle Biley was voted all-Tournament, as were Amber Jackson of San Jose State and Juleen Smith of Grambling State. SJSU defeated Grambling 63-56 in the consolation game.

"It's a great way to go into the Christmas break," said Fanning, whose team does not play again until December 30 at East Tennessee State. "Their next home action is January 3, hosting Birmingham-Southern, and then the Bulldogs open southeastern Conference season January 6 at South Carolina. The team ought to go into the New Year with a good mindset, the veterans say.

"I'd just say we're playing better together," Kates said. "And we've played at home. This gives us a lot of confidence going into SEC play."

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