Lady Bulldogs Fall to Belmont, 67-60

Belmont (2-1) used an intimidating in-your-face defense against Mississippi State (2-1) the entire night to earn a 67-60-road win at Humphrey Coliseum. The Bruins took it to the Lady Bulldogs in the first half to establish a ten-point lead in the first ten minutes and never let MSU get closer than three points the rest of the way.

"The bottom line is that we got outworked for 40 minutes," said MSU coach Sharon Fanning. "There were two or three spurts when we were pretty good but controlling the backboards and getting to the free throw line was the difference in the game. We knew that their two post players (Alysha Clark and Jessica Bobbitt) were the key and that they would get the basketball to them. Clark had nine rebounds in the first half. We did not do a good job of blocking her out. That comes down to work ethic. We didn't find a way to get it done tonight."

Clark scored 19 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead all players in both categories. Clark became the first opponent that grabbed 20 rebounds against the Lady Bulldogs since Mississippi's Armintie Price reached that milestone last season. Bobbitt, the Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Week, added 10 points and 5 rebounds, which was second best on her team in both categories.

"I was very disappointed in our work ethic tonight and communication," Fanning added. "We didn't practice well yesterday and somehow we have to get their attention. We are not playing to our potential. We have to play harder. We'll continue teaching the fundamentals especially executing beyond the first or second pass. We have to do a better job as a team. We have to play focused. You can't cut their lead to two or three points and then give up a three or an offensive rebound or turn the ball over. We have to execute better on each possession to get a good shot. When you work hard to get the basketball, you can't turn it over just because you are not aware of who is around you. We have to learn each other better and be more consistent."

The game seesawed for the first four minutes. After the first media timeout, the Bruins came out and stepped up their defense forcing numerous MSU turnovers or bad shots. At the same time, Belmont also made their shots in the half court offense. MSU seemed a step slower or out of rhythm in that sequence. The only semblance of offense in the first half was in fast break opportunities, which MSU controlled 10-0.

"They really didn't get us out of a rhythm," said MSU's Imesia Jackson who finished the game with 16 points to lead her team in scoring. She also had 6 rebounds. "We never got into our rhythm. They played good defense. We could have executed better. We made too many mistakes tonight."

"We didn't execute well tonight," Fanning added. "We didn't set anything past the first or second screen. We didn't get to a third screen on them. We played random tonight. We weren't together as a team. We panicked a bit."

Trailing 35-27 at the half, what did Fanning tell her club in the dressing room?

"We talked a lot about blocking out and setting the second and third screens," she said. "We talked about playing harder and out working them. Just about every time when they got into their face defense, we weren't guarding them they way we were supposed to. That meant they got an easy bucket."

"We talked about offense and defensive rebounds and getting to the boards," Jackson confirmed. "We didn't rebound like we were supposed to. We didn't block out like the coaches taught us. We have to do better."

In the second half, Belmont continued their dominance, at one point enjoying a 14-point advantage. MSU trimmed their lead to as few as three points and could have shaven another point off that margin, but missed a free throw after a made basket. That sequence seemed to encapsulate the game. Belmont then went on a 5-0 run that all but thwarted any credible MSU comeback.

"We didn't run out of gas, it's just that we didn't play team defense," said Robin Porter who was the only other Lady Bulldog that scored in double digits with 12 points. "We weren't together. That set us back. We can't dwell on this. We'll come in here tomorrow and work on our next game. If we plan on getting better we have to move ahead."

"They (Belmont) were patient and made the extra pass, and that's why they got open for their threes," Fanning explained. The Bruins made 10 of 29 shots from behind the arc, compared to 6 of 20 for State. "If they didn't knock them down, they got the offensive board to get another shot. They were ready to go and took it at us."

A couple of bright spots for MSU were a pair of true freshmen. Tysheka Grimes led MSU with 11 rebounds. Alexis Rack came off the bench to play point guard and was the only MSU player with a positive assist-turnover ratio dishing out 8 assists while turning the ball over 3 times in just eight minutes of playing time. She also scored 6 points and had 6 rebounds.

"Marneshia (Richard) has been fairly consistent in controlling the team but she didn't play to her level tonight," Fanning said. "I felt that Alexis stepped up and hope she gained some confidence tonight. Ty was pretty good in spurts."

Richard and Grimes scored 7 points apiece. Lauren Roberts and Heather Hollis each scored 5 points, while Bethany Washington scored the other 2 MSU points. Miayorka Johnson, Amy Reeder, Natasha Henderson and Channa Campbell did not score. Roberts, Porter, Hollis and Washington each had a four-rebound performance.

The Lady Bulldogs return to the floor against the Mississippi Valley State Devilettes (2-0) Sunday, November 26th with tip-off set for 2 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.

"We'll practice Tuesday and Wednesday and take off Thanksgiving Day," Fanning said. "We'll come back and practice on Friday and Saturday for our game on Sunday."

Andy Kalinowski, known on the internet as Andy K, writes about Mississippi State women's basketball for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. He can be reached by email at>.

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