MSU started the game with a 7-2 run the first two minutes on the strength of a couple of Robin Porter free throws and a trey by Tysheka Grimes. Tech went on a 9-0 run to take an 11-7 lead with 14:47 left in the first half.
State answered the run with buckets by Bethany Washington and Jackson to tie the game at 11 with 12:45 left. Over the next five minutes, the two teams combined for 12 turnovers and nine missed shots. MSU extended their lead to 18-13 with seven minutes left on the first half clock.
Over the next two minutes, the teams exchanged a one-point lead until MSU began to pull away just before the half. Lauren Roberts had three buckets and a free throw, which accounted for all her scoring for the night. MSU took a 33-25 left into the dressing room. It would be their largest lead of the game.
LaTech came out of the dressing room and systematically cut into the Lady Bulldog lead over the first six and half minutes. At the 13:31 mark, Eboni Mangum fed Tamika Kursh a pass for an easy lay-up to get LaTech to within a point at 35-34.
During the next six minutes the game see-sawed back and forth with a three-point advantage being the best either team could muster. In that same span the game was tied five times and there were four lead changes.
With 2:28 left, Porter tied the game at 50 on a three-point shot. Three possessions later, Jackson nailed a jumper that gave MSU a 54-51 lead with 1:06 left. For the Lady Bulldogs, that was all their scoring for the night. State had several opportunities late in the game, but missed two shots, two free throws, turned the ball over three times and, most importantly, failed to score.
"We wanted to win very badly, but it was a situation of things," Fanning explained. "Louisiana Tech had four seniors on the floor, and they were experienced. Their defensive pressure was tougher than we have seen, and we struggled on the inbounds. We made some mistakes, but hopefully we will learn from this experience and hopefully not repeat these mistakes."
Jackson led MSU with 11 points, while Washington scored 10 points and had 8 rebounds. Porter added 7 points while Grimes and Marneshia Richard scored just 3 and 2 points to round out the starter scoring totals. Miayorka Johnson led the players coming off the bench with 9 points. She matched Washington's rebounding total with 8. In addition to Roberts 7 points, Alexis Rack scored three points while Channa Campbell rounded out the scoring with a basket in the nine-player rotation.
The loss extends the MSU losing streak to three games. Despite not having Jackson for much of the game, coupled with some mental breakdowns at the end, State played hard for the entire game. They did not let the past two losses affect their mental preparation for this game, nor, according to Fanning, will it affect their outlook for the immediate future.
"That is the way I have always prepared them," Fanning said. "You cannot look ahead. You have to prepare daily in practice and for tomorrow and take things one game at a time. If you start worrying about the record, previous games, or upcoming games you will not be focused. You must be focused to be ready to play hard, smart and play together. If you do these things then you will win ballgames. And if you win ballgames you will gain the confidence that you need to help you prepare for the next game."
The task for Mississippi State gets no easier. They travel to West Lafayette, Indiana for a Sunday night game against No. 13 Purdue. The Boilermakers, who will bring an 8-2 record into the game, are led by senior guard/forward Katie Gearlds and junior forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton. Each was named the Big Ten Player of the Week this season. Their two losses came on the road at Connecticut and at Notre Dame, both perennial women's basketball powers.
"Purdue is a very good basketball team from what I know (about) them from last year," Fanning said. "They shoot the ball well, they run the floor, and are very big in size. I believe they are a very versatile basketball team, but that is similar to what it is like playing in our league. It is a good test for us, and a huge opportunity to improve."
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 Andy_Kalinowski@yahoo.com.