"It feels great," said Robin Porter, who is one of the few remaining players from last year's team that finished the season with a 13 game losing streak. "This game made us aware of what to expect when we play against SEC teams later this year. We've been improving in every game. Tonight we have some results."
Florida State, who defeated the Florida Gators 86-66 last Friday, used their height advantage against MSU to start the game with a 7-0 run in the first two and half minutes. MSU got on the board with a Jackson jumper. She followed that with another shot to get MSU within a basket at the 15:56 mark. FSU maintained a one-shot lead until Bethany Washington got a lay-up to tie the game at 11 with 12:29 left until the intermission. Then Jackson's lay-up half a minute later gave MSU their first lead at 13-11. MSU held the lead until Alicia Gladden's jumper gave the 'Noles a 17-16 lead with just under six minutes left in the first half. The teams continued battling each other until the 1:10 mark left in the first half. With the game tied at 22, Cayla Moore gave the visitors the lead. FSU took a 28-25 advantage into the locker room.
"Going into a game when we know they have a couple of players that are 6-foot 4 or 6-foot 5, it knocks you down a little bit at first," said Jackson. "The fact is that we beat a team with 6-foot 4 and 6-foot 5 girls. It tells me that you have to play a couple steps ahead of them in order to beat someone of their caliber. They are a big team and an athletic team. That meant we had to play hard."
FSU extended their lead to 32-25 in the first two and half minutes of the second half before MSU answered with a pair of Jackson field goals coupled with a Marneshia Richard shot. But FSU maintained their lead until Alexis Rack got a lay-up off a Bethany Washington assist to give MSU a 46-45 lead with 7:17 left in regulation.
From that point until the end of regulation, the game was within one shot by either team, as neither gave in. With a minute and a half left in regulation, Miayorka Johnson stepped in the passing lanes to steal the ball from Nikki Anthony. Johnson brought the ball into the front court but could not find an easy basket. Finally, Johnson put up a shot as the shot clock was expiring. That shot missed but Jackson grabbed the rebound, found Rack open for an easy lay-up to tie the game at 54.
"We weren't intimidated," said Porter. "When you play a good team like that you find out what you can do. Instead of intimidation, we really found out what we can do."
In the final minute of regulation, FSU controlled the ball the entire time but could not score. Mara Freshour missed a lay-up. Jackson grabbed the rebound but the officials whistled traveling. FSU called their final timeout with 27 seconds left to set up the final play. Freshour again took the shot but could not connect. MSU did not allow the Seminoles a good look at the basket in either of those two final possessions.
"We wanted to keep the ball on one side of the floor and not let them penetrate," Fanning explained. "We switched screens and kept ourselves between them and the rim. We contested shots and blocked out to limit their second shots. We moved our feet better and got in someone's face. We took away their easy looks."
After MSU established a 6-point lead in the first two and half minutes of overtime, their largest lead of the contest, FSU called a time out, but the Lady Bulldog's would not be denied. MSU outscored the 'Noles 11-6 in the extra period.
"We can't become complacent with this win," Fanning warned. "We now understand what it takes to win. This was a big game to win. They finished fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year and that conference put three teams in the Final Four. So this is a good basketball team. Now that we know how to win, our challenge is to reproduce it. You can't get up for one team and then not be ready for another game because that team won't have the same record or credentials coming in. To become a good basketball team you have to play consistently hard. But this is a great win."
No MSU player other than Jackson reached double digits. Bethany Washington scored 9 points and a game high 4 assists. Robin Porter chipped in 6 points, while Marneshia Richard added 2 points. Tysheka Grimes added one point to round out the starters' scoring. Alexis Rack led the bench scoring with 7 points, followed by 5 points from Miayorka Johnson. Lauren Roberts added 3 points, while Amy Reeder's 2 points rounded out the scoring. Natasha Henderson did not score.
"I didn't play my best last Sunday," Jackson said in response to a question about her career high. "When we went over the scouting report yesterday, I decided right then and there that I had to bring my 'A' game. I got to bed early last night and had a good night's rest. I ate a big breakfast this morning. I was ready all day."
"She stepped up for us," Fanning added. "We kept trying to get her the basketball. We're learning each other and playing through mistakes. She is still finding a way to score whether it's against a man or a zone. We're looking to get her easy passes. She has to learn to score around various people. They didn't double-team a lot. When that happens, she has to learn to pass the ball."
Gladden led FSU with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Freshour along with Tanae Davis-Cain and Shantee Williams scored 9 points apiece.
MSU hosts UAB on Sunday to close out a six-game home-stand. The Blazers (0-6) fell to No. 14 Vanderbilt, 85-63, Thursday evening in Bartow Arena. Sunday's game is "Take a kid to the game" day. Any child accompanied by an adult gets in free.
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>.