The Lady Bulldogs struggled for much of the first half against the Troy 2-3 zone defense. The Trojans took a 9-8 lead with 11:38 left in the first half as Amy Lewis hit a three-point shot. After State briefly regained the led, Kylie Morrissy scored on a Danielle Realph assist with nine minutes left in the first half. Troy built on the 11-10 lead but MS fought back.
Trailing 19-16 with 3:50 left in the first half Bethany Washington scored on a jump shot and drew the foul. Her three-point play tied the game at 19. A minute later Imesia Jackson went inside with a lay-up to give MS a lead they would not relinquish. State shot 23.5 percent from the field (8 for 34) and had only one three-point basket in 12 attempts. State closed out the final four minutes of the half strong with a 11-3 run to take a 27-22 advantage into the locker room.
"We didn't move the ball and penetrate to get behind their zone for the lay-up," Fanning said. "The game needs to be developed inside-outside. We didn't do a good job of that early. But we maintained our patience. I challenged the team at half time to take good shots, and they responded."
According to sophomore guard Heather Hollis, "we were passing the ball well around the perimeter. In the first half we had a lot of open looks but we were just cold. When you're cold there is not much you can do except trying to penetrate their seams to get the ball in the middle."
In the second half, the Lady Bulldogs went inside and outside. MS held Troy scoreless in the first two minutes of the second half with a 7-0 run. The Trojans made the game interesting cutting the MS lead to as few as two points with 14:17 left in the game. It was during that time when MS went inside to Jackson and Robin Porter. Besides hitting their shots, they also drew fouls.
When MS began their outside assault with a Hollis trey at the 14:17 mark, the Lady Bulldogs put the game away. State went on a 20-2 run over the next seven minutes. Hollis went on a personal tear as she scored all her 15 points in that span.
"We played defense much tougher in the second half," said Jackson, a junior forward. "We were not as aggressive as we needed to be in the first half. It was much the same way we played on offense. In the first half we struggled offensively and defensively. When our shooting warmed up, we also picked up our defense. Our offense came as a result of our defense."
"In the second half we went with a line-up that had not practiced much together," Fanning revealed. "This was the first time that Miayorka (Johnson), Amy (Reeder) and Heather (Hollis) have played together. They are veteran players who have a lot of confidence in themselves and their shooting abilities. We also emphasized getting the ball into the paint but also not being afraid to take some outside shots. We never want to just settle for shooting three's. You have to move the ball and try to get to the free throw line. The free throw line is really important for us."
MS made 27 of 37 free throws (73 percent) compared to 11 for 20 (55 percent) free throw shooting for Troy.
Depth was another key factor in the win. Troy's bench did not produce one point. Lewis led all scorers with 18 points, while Morrissy added 16 points. Holman and Morrissy led Troy with eight rebounds apiece.
Jackson led MS in scoring with 17 points while Hollis added 15 points, on the strength of four three-point shots and making all three free throw attempts. Bethany Washington added nine points and nine rebounds. Washington led the team in rebounding and shared the assist lead with teammate Miayorka Johnson. Both dished out three assists. No player saw more than 30 minutes of action in Fanning's 13-player rotation.
MS takes the next week to prepare for hosting Southeast Louisiana next Friday.
"They competed for their league championship last year,"Fanning said. "They have a veteran team returning. We're going to have to be ready for them. Any team like them wants to play their best basketball against us. Our main job this week is to focus on things we might see teams use against us. We've learned a lot of things that will help us to win a lot of ball games this year."
Next Friday's game tips off an action filled weekend of women's basketball, football and men's basketball. There is no admission charge for women's basketball.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org>.