Lady Bulldogs Fall to Arkansas, 66-45

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State women's basketball team opened Southeastern Conference play on Thursday night with a 66-45 loss to Arkansas at Humphrey Coliseum. The Lady 'Backs (9-5, 1-0 SEC) led by 16 at the half and outscored the Lady Bulldogs (5-9, 0-1 SEC) 33-28 in the second half to take the 21-point win. Senior guard/forward Blessing Chekwa and freshman guard/forward Marneshia Richard led the way by tallying double-digit point totals.

"I believe Arkansas' experience showed tonight," said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning. "They are a very aggressive team. They were on the floor for every loose ball, they defend and they rebound. You can see that in the attempts they got from offensive boards and our turnovers created a lot more shots. (Our) young players are just trying to learn to play together."

Chekwa scored the game's opening basket at 19:23 to give MSU an early 2-0 lead. The Lady Razorbacks tied the game at 18:38 and took a two-point lead before MSU notched it up at five with 17:54 to play. MSU got two free throw shots and another basket from Chekwa to gain a four-point advantage, their largest of the half at 15:59. The Lady 'Backs pulled to within three at the 15:12 mark with MSU holding a 12-9 lead. From there, Arkansas jumped out by seven after an eight-minute MSU scoring drought. The Lady 'Backs extended their lead out to 19 with 1:22 left in the half and took a 16-point, 33-17, lead into the lockerroom at the break.

Arkansas managed to score 15 first half points off of 18 MSU turnovers, while the Lady Bulldogs were unable to capitalize off the Lady 'Backs' seven turnovers.

Arkansas led the entire second half by double digits, including an 18-point advantage at the 16:39 mark. Behind baskets from sophomore guard Miayorka Johnson, Richard and junior forward/center Natasha Henderson, State cut the lead to 12 with 12:04 left to play. That was as close as MSU got as the Lady 'Backs jumped up by 25 with 2:41 left in the period and won by 21 at 66-45.

Richard led MSU with 11 points, followed by Chekwa's 10.

Arkansas' Kristin Moore led all scorers with 15 points, while Dominique Washington added 14. The Lady Razorbacks ended the game outscoring MSU in bench points, 21-11.

MSU returns to action on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 8, when the Lady Bulldogs travel to Oxford to take on archrival Mississippi in a Fox Sports Net regionally televised contest at 2 p.m. State returns home on Sunday, Jan. 15, to play host to top-ranked Tennessee at 2 p.m. to be televised on Comcast Sports South.

-Arkansas leads the overall series 12-9 and State is 6-3 when hosting the Lady Razorbacks.
-This is the first time Mississippi State and Arkansas have met in an SEC opener. MSU is 6-18 all-time in conference openers and 3-7 in SEC openers at home.
-The last time Mississippi State won an SEC opener at home was Dec. 6, 1998 vs. Vanderbilt.

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