The Lady Bulldogs controlled the opening tip. Marneshia Richard saw Imesia Jackson open for a 10-foot jump shot 15 seconds deep into the contest. That started an 8-0 MSU run. Lauren Roberts and Porter each scored in the paint, while Jackson netted a pair of free throws in the first four minutes, before Houston could get on the board.
Over the next six minutes, Houston nibbled away and got as close as three points when Lauren Hill got open to the right of the basket to make it a 17-14 game with 10:43 left in the first half. That would be as close as the Jaguars would get.
Over the next seven minutes, the Lady Bulldogs dominated the play on both ends of the floor with an impressive 20-2 run. During that stretch, when MSU missed a shot, it seemed that a teammate would grab an offensive rebound and either take the ball to the rim or reset the play. On the other end of the floor, MSU had a couple of steals and blocked shots. At the half, MSU held a decisive 44-25 advantage.
State maintained the intensity level for most of the second half outscoring their opponent 42-31 after the break. Knowing that the game was now more of a controlled scrimmage, Fanning used the occasion to experiment with her rotation and schemes.
"In the second half, I did put in a group pressing, and we were able to run three types of full court press, a couple of half court traps and were successful with those," Fanning said. "It's good to get the team understanding terminology and be able to change defenses and do things for one time only. I still think a lot of our turnovers are caused by us and our poor spacing. We have to do a better job of protecting the ball."
Over the first six minutes of the second half, MSU and Houston traded 8-points as neither team seemed to play with intensity.
"You want intensity regardless of the scenario," Fanning said. "I still feel like there was a gap there where we should have scored 15 more and they should have scored 15 less. Whatever our ability is, I want us to play to our ability. I don't want us to become complacent just because of the level of the team we are playing."
With 13:52 remaining in the game, State began playing with intensity again. Bethany Washington got open in the paint to start an 8-0 run to expand the lead to 61-33. Washington finished the run with a lay-up.
"There were some good stretches good shots, sharing the basketball, good ball movement and team play," Fanning said.
In addition to Porter, the starting five included Jackson, a junior college transfer, who finished the game with nine points and eight rebounds during her 24-minute stint. Miayorka Johnson scored eight points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. Richard added six points and one rebound in 16 minutes while Roberts scored five points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
Tysheka Grimes led the scoring from the bench with nine points and eight rebounds in 16 minutes. Washington chipped in eight points and nine rebounds during a 25-minute stint. Heather Hollis, Amy Reeder and Channa Campbell each scored six points apiece. Natasha Henderson, Alexis Rack and Bethany Workman scored four, three and two points, respectively. Katherine Young and Carrie Landers did not score.
"We learned a lot tonight," Fanning said. "We're going to learn a lot more tomorrow when they watch the film. They are going to see the breakdowns we had. Right now some of our players understand what we're talking about. Tomorrow they'll see themselves go through those situations and be able to see their spacing and how they actually looked."
What are some of the other teaching points that Fanning and her staff will emphasize to the Lady Bulldogs as they prepare for their season opener on Friday night?
"It's important for us to make more free throws than our opponent attempts. It's important to out rebound. I don't think we ran the transition as well as we could have. We drained some threes in the first half and they played a lot of zone, but we still needed to get the ball in the paint. We didn't gain enough gaps in the second half. We just stayed even with them for a little while."
Victoria Crawford led Houston in scoring with 21 points, while Regina Brown added 11 more. Former Lady Bulldog Mamie McKinney led the Jaguars with 11 rebounds and also added five points. Another Houston player making a homecoming trip was Blessing Chekwa who scored two points. Houston shot 31.3 percent for the night and was out rebounded 61-44.
"(Our) defense was good," Fanning said. "We don't want the ball to reverse, and we don't want it to penetrate. There were a couple of screens that we got lost or we didn't close it out. Every shot we want contested and there to be blocking out. We still have to communicate better. We want the other team to shoot under 40 percent and have our team shoot 45 percent."
MSU shot 43.8 percent for the game. Fanning did not have the final stats when she made her comments. Still, she offered some insight into practice the next couple of days.
"Confidence-wise we're playing together," she said. "We've had many different rotations. We have started four different perimeter players in practice, scrimmages or tonight. Trying to get them to step up and learn each other is important right now. But we're making progress and hopefully will continue to get better. Everything changes this Friday (first regular season game). Hopefully we are learning enough right now, and we will be ready to go."
The Lady Bulldogs open regular season play this Friday, November 10 at 7 p.m. against Troy University at Humphrey Coliseum. Friday's game will be the Lady Bulldog's first attempt this season to get Fanning's 500th career win.
Andy Kalinowski, known on the internet as Andy K, writes about Mississippi State women's basketball for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. He can be reached by email at email@example.com>.