Lady Bulldogs 3-1 After 80-51 Win

Mississippi State (3-1) used a decided height advantage to defeat Mississippi Valley State (2-1) on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum 80-51. Robin Porter scored a team-high 13 points, while Miayorka Johnson and Tysheka Grimes scored 12 points each. Johnson led all rebounders with 11 for her second career double-double, while the 12 points was a career high for Grimes.

"I was pleased with how we finished the ball game," said MSU coach Sharon Fanning. "In the first half we began to substitute five players for five players. In the second half we were able to mix the rotation somewhat, and I believe that works more to our advantage. Showing the balance and experience that we have, it worked well to mix our rotation towards the end of the game."

MSU got off to a 4-0 start in the first minute and half on the strength of a pair of free throws by Bethany Washington and a lay-up compliments of Marneshia Richard. State extended the lead to 9-3 four minutes deep into the game. But the Devilettes cut into the lead playing a 2-3 zone to neutralize the MSU height advantage. With 11 minutes left in the first half, Ashley Robinson scored a basket off a Karmethia Mazique assist and drew a foul from Natasha Henderson. Robinson converted the free throw to make it an 11-10 game.

From that point MSU picked up the tempo and went on a 10-2 run within a two-minute span. Baskets by Porter, Grimes and Imesia Jackson gave MSU a lot of breathing room. This spurt provided the cushion MSU enjoyed for the rest of the half. The Lady Bulldogs took a 37-26 advantage into the dressing room.

Over the first eight minutes of the second half, Valley kept pace with State, who held a 46-36 advantage at the 11:56 mark. That is when MSU height and depth became apparent. Over the next six minutes, State methodically kept their focus and demeanor to expand the lead to 20, then to 25 before taking a 30-point lead with two minutes to go.

"In the second half, as far as the transition part of the game I was very pleased with how we played," Fanning said. "Even though there were turnovers in the game, we did not let things get out of hand. We got some easy transition buckets out of fast breaks, and I thought we played more focused in transition. We had a situation where we could push the ball and put the game away. We already had the lead, and wanted to build on our point margin and secure the game, and we did that. We were able to rotate every player. We have two walk-ons on the team, and they were able to get into the game, which allowed us to look at different combinations."

Alexis Rack came off the bench and scored 7 MSU points. It was the second consecutive game where Rack, the Louisiana High School player of the year last season, made a positive contribution on the floor.

"This is the second game in a row where Alexis has come in and played very well for us off the bench," Fanning said. "We have been teaching this word demeanor, which is a swagger, an expectation, how quickly you are prepared to play the next play no matter what it is. I am so proud of Alexis, because she has stepped up and is communicating well on the court. As the game goes on she listens well when she is not in the game. This is two games in a row, where I felt she has played with confidence and poise. She made good decisions and pushed the ball quickly but not making mistakes in transition. She is going to continue to get better. I have been on all the girls hard, but especially her, and she is finally beginning to grasp things. She will continue to get better if she keeps up all of her hard work."

Rack relieved Richard, the MSU starting point guard. Richard scored 6 points. Other Lady Bulldog scoring came from Washington, who added 6 points. Jackson scored 5. In addition to Johnson and Rack, Bethany Workman, Heather Hollis and Lauren Roberts scored four points apiece coming off the bench. Katherine Young added 3, while Amy Reeder and Natasha Henderson chipped in two points apiece. Carrie Landers and Channa Campbell did not score.

Hollis played only sparingly in the first half and did not play at all in the second half as a result of a mild concussion, but should be back in action for the next game.

The win comes after a six day break following a 67-60 loss to Belmont. In that game Belmont out rebounded MSU 50-47. Today MSU out rebounded MVSU 54-40.

"We specifically focused on rebounding after last Monday's game," Fanning noted. "We just have to focus on getting better positioning on the boards. You are going to have to block out, and if you are smaller you are going to have to block out your man a step further. Defense, rebounding, and shot selection are the three things we stress daily to our team. Our starting line up had three new faces, and two are freshman, and two others are sophomores. We still have a lot of learning that is taking place, but we have a group of young ladies who are listening, working hard and focusing on getting better. As they begin to become more successful they start to understand the points we are making. Sometimes, until you make a mistake you do not actually understand things. Once the mistake is made you realize what is being talked about, and can learn from that mistake. Hopefully after last game, we came to the realization of what we need to improve on, and continue to work hard on those things."

MSU set a school record with 13 blocked shots. Grimes had three of those. Washington, Hollis and Roberts each had a pair of blocked shots. Besides blocking shots, Grimes led the team with four steals. Washington and Porter made three steals apiece.

Portia Wilson came off the bench for MVSU to lead all scorers with 18 points and 8 rebounds. No other player from their team scored more than 8 points.

MSU returns to the action on Thursday hosting the Florida State Seminoles for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off.

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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