Lady Bulldogs defeat Boston College

LUBBOCK, Texas -- The Mississippi State women's basketball team made a second-half charge to upend fifth-seeded Boston College 65-59 in the opening round of the NCAA West Regional in Lubbock, Texas.

Leading by one point with 2:33 left to go, all-American LaToya Thomas scored five of her 19 second-half points to lead twelth-seeded State (19-11) on a late 7-0 run that proved to be the deciding factor.

Boston College (23-8) took its largest lead of the second half just two minutes in as Brianne Stepherson hit a jumper to put the Eagles up five points. State cut into the lead, but the Eagles responded by expanding the lead back to four points.

Thomas gave the Lady Bulldogs the lead for good with her layup at the 3:50 mark. Junior transfer Renea Jones sealed the six-point win with a steal and two of her nine points on a pair of late free throws.

"When we entered the game we thought that defense would be key," said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning. "We really picked it up in the second half. Boston College had a lot of experience that they brought to the game and we looked a little jittery at times. But all in all this a huge win for us and gives a new level of experience to the our players who haven't been here before."

MSU shot 47 percent from the floor, while holding BC to just 40 percent. The Eagles shot 50 percent from the floor in the first stanza, but State keyed the comeback win by holding the Lady Eagles to just 32 percent in the second period.

Thomas' game-high 27 points pushed her double-digit scoring streak to 93 consecutive games. The two-time Kodak All-American put in nine of her 14 field goal attempts and hit 9-of-12 from the line. The Greenville, Miss., native also snagged 15 rebounds for her 15th-career double-double.

Freshman standout Tan White joined Thomas in double digits, chipping in 15 points in the wining effort. The Tupelo, Miss., native had only five rebounds but managed four steals in her game-high 37 minutes of action.

"Today we learned the floor better - got the jitters out," said MSU's lone senior Jennifer Fambrough. "Sunday, we will come out more focused and able to play all 40 minutes."

Fambrough saw 28 minutes of action in just her third game back since having back surgery in early February. The Dickson, Tenn., native had nine points, three assists and four steals for the Lady Bulldogs.

Like State, Boston College put a pair of players in double figures. Jessalyn Deveny led the Eagles with 15 points while Amber Jacobs chipped in 14 points.

"Obviously, we are a little disappointed in this game," said Boston College head coach Cathy Inglese. "I feel we played our best but we didn't execute everything we wanted to. I have to give Mississippi State credit, they did some nice things to get the ball."

The first half started with a back-and-forth struggle. The Lady Bulldogs jumped out early scoring the first four points, but the Eagles rallied to take their first lead of the game at 11-10 with just over 14 minutes to play. The lead for BC was short, as White hit two of her 11 first-half points to put MSU on top 12-11 and spark an 8-0 run.

Jones capped the scoring run for MSU with her driving layup with 12 minutes left, but BC responded with three straight baskets from beyond the arc to regain the lead at 22-20 with 7:45 to go. The Lady Bulldogs held on to a narrow one-point lead, but the last few minutes went cold from the field while Boston College rallied to take a 32-29 lead at the break.

Both teams shut each other down to begin the second half, but BC extended its lead to five with a turnaround basket two minutes into the second stanza. State did not get its first basket of the final period until the 15:43 mark, when White hit a layup to cut into the BC lead.

The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Eagles exchanged the lead in a hard-fought contest, but State pulled into the second round with the late charge at the end of the contest.

State awaits host Texas Tech, a winner over Stephen F. Austin. Sunday's second round match-up marks the second time the Lady Bulldogs have made it to the NCAA Tournament's second round. The contest is set to tip-off at 7:30 p.m. CST and can be heard on WFCA 107.9 FM with Bart Gregory calling the action.

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