In the first half, Grimes made seven of nine shots from the field including three of four from the three-point line and made both free throw attempts to go along with seven rebounds. Her 19 first-half points eclipsed her pervious career high of 16 points established exactly one month ago, December 21st in Jackson, Mississippi against the University of New Orleans. But on Sunday, she still had another half to play.
It seemed that every time she touched the ball, something good for MSU happened.
"I've never had a first half performance like that," Grimes said with a big smile on her face and flanked by her teammates. "I was shocked; I don't know what came over me. This was one of our better games, I must say."
Grimes effectiveness did not go unnoticed by the opposition.
"Obviously I am very impressed with her," said South Carolina coach Susan Walvius. "At halftime that is what we talked to our team about. 'Who can guard her?' She stepped up with a lot of confidence. She shot the ball well. We didn't have an answer for her. She really did a nice job of shooting the basketball. She played hard. I was really, really impressed with her all the way around."
Grimes finished the game with 28 points, but she actually had an opportunity to score again in the waning minutes of the game. Although she was open, Grimes passed the ball to teammate Imesia Jackson who had a much easier shot. Jackson finished the game scoring 23 points.
As impressive as Grimes was, her teammate Marneshia Richard had a record-setting double-double - 13 points and 11 assists. While it was Richard's first career double-double, it was also the first time a Lady Bulldog had ten or more assists in a game since Tan White's ten assists against Morris Brown in February 2002.
"My teammates were getting open and I was finding them," Richard said. "I have to give credit to my teammates for getting open and making the passes easy for me."
"She is a focused, hard working player," Fanning added. "You can look at Marneshia and just tell how hard she works. She is a special player on the court but also in the classroom as well. She is a great student of the game and has improved so much in her strength and speed. She also has set an incredible example for the other girls on the team and that is what makes me most proud."
In addition to Grimes, Jackson and Richard, Alexis Rack turned in her third double-digit scoring performance against SEC opponents, with a 10-point game against the Gamecocks.
One other Lady Bulldog reached the double-digit plateau. Bethany Washington scored just 2 points but had a game-high 10 rebounds. It was the third time this season she had at least ten rebounds, but the first time against SEC competition and against a team that had a front court with the shortest player 6-foot 3. Washington is 5-foot 11. MSU held a 41-33 rebounding advantage.
"Positioning is so important when undersized," Fanning explained. "You are going to have to take blocking out a little more seriously also. That is something we learned the hard way against Tennessee, but it has been a point of emphasis all season long. When you have good positioning, it makes blocking out so much easier. Your work ethic on learning your positioning will be what determines your advantage on the boards and we showed better signs of that today."
"We don't have too many basketball teams beat us on the boards and they did," Walvius replied. "We have tremendous size advantage on most teams we play against. We played a very tough non-conference schedule and have not loss the battle of the boards and that really says a lot about this Mississippi State team and their heart and intensity."
Although Mississippi State led for just about the entire game, the first half was extremely competitive. The Lady Bulldogs had a six-point lead on four different occasions. South Carolina trailed 40-37 at the break. But for some reason the Gamecocks never got started in the second half.
"Three point shots can be a back breaker," Walvius admitted. "They hit some threes and they did a nice job of attacking the rim. They got some high percentage shots. Then they would get second shots and again I thought they had a lot of effort and intensity and a lot of teamwork. They passed the ball extremely well. They had good shot fakes, good ball movement, broke the defense down, got high percentage shots, took high percentage shots. We tried to force the first option. We tried to force play and Mississippi State didn't do that. They really played extremely well together."
MSU methodically expanded their lead in the second half. Four minutes into the half, MSU expanded their lead to seven points. Four minutes later, MSU had an 11-point cushion. With nine minutes left in the game, USC got to within nine-points, but that was as close as they could get.
Two minutes later MSU had a 17-point lead and that was where the balance of the game was played.
"It is an absolute brilliant offensive performance when you put up 87 points on our team," Walvius said. "We knew that they were going to be good. I looked at some of the scores and I looked at some of the teams they have beaten. They've got a young team but they are doing a real nice job. They've obviously got some leadership and just a lot of momentum in this game."
"We always try and identify two or three things after a game that helps you win and it was difficult to come up with just two or three things this game," Fanning said. "We had a great balanced effort today. I felt defensively we were sound and we played great help defense. With a team their size, you cannot just go one-on-one every time and expect results. You have to play great help-side defense and we did a good job of that today. This is one of the biggest teams in the league, but we were surprisingly strong today in rebounding, mainly because of our positioning. Shot selection is always going to be that third factor that helps you and we were very good with our shot selection today. You have to knock down those good shots, which we did, and it helped us pick up our momentum. To have four-people in double figures, and Marneshia to get a double-double is great balance. Also, the assist-to-turnover ratio was a very visible stat. It was great balance and a great team effort today."
MSU had 20 assists and 22 turnovers in the game. USC had 18 assists and 23 turnovers. State made 33 of 67 shots from the field (49.3 percent), which included 11 for 22 from the three-point line. South Carolina made 29 of 61 shots from the field (47.5%), which included 5 of 15 from the three-point line. Both teams made 10 free throws and had 11 steals. The USC height advantage came into play as the taller Gamecocks blocked 9 MSU shots. MSU did not block a shot.
The victory over South Carolina stopped a three game MSU losing streak, to three of the best teams in the conference - Georgia, LSU and Tennessee.
"Any game in this league is going to be a tough game, but I think when you have to play Georgia, LSU, and Tennessee in a row, it gives a great challenge to the team," Fanning said. "Both mentally and physically, you have to be ready to go out there and play those games. When you play those games hard you have to learn from your mistakes and carry what you learn over to each game. Today we scrapped. I know we were ready to play, and that is what you have to do every game to put yourself in a position to win."
Porter, the team's second leading scorer averaging 9.1 points per game, did not dress for the game due to a knee injury.
"She practiced a little bit yesterday," Fanning reported. "I expect her to play on Thursday."
Johnson, who plays about 19 minutes per game, is out for at least three weeks with a torn meniscus.
Hollis is a role player that has a finger injury.
"She'll be wearing a splint for six to eight weeks," Fanning said. "She seems to be shooting fine with it."
Before Fanning left the media room, she wanted to thank a special group for their help in the win.
"I would like to thank Ray Wilkerson. She is our state 4-H Specialist and works here at Mississippi State. The other guest coach, Kim Watson, is a student at Hinds Community College. She is the State 4-H council president. These two ladies are responsible for getting all these 4-H members here to help support us today."
Mississippi State plays a pair of road games in Rupp Arena and in Oxford before returning to Humphrey Coliseum on February 1st for a regionally televised game against Arkansas.
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.