Lady Bulldogs Move to Next Round of WNIT

Mississippi State (18-13) used two defensive plays coupled with a 6-0 run in the final minute to defeat Tulane (26-7) at Humphrey Coliseum 79-73 and advance to the Round of 16 in the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

Alexis Rack broke a 73-73 tie with 57 seconds left in the game on a jump shot inside the free throw circle as the shot clock was running down. Then baskets by Marneshia Richard after a defensive rebound and an Imesia Jackson uncontested lay-up after a Richard steal was an undertow that drowned the Green Wave season and gave the Lady Bulldogs an opportunity to play later this week.

"The clock was running down," Rack said. "I was just looking to score and I was open, so I took the shot."

"Somewhere I heard the statement, 'stop on demand' and from a defensive stand point, that is what we were encouraging," said MSU coach Sharon Fanning. "Down the stretch we had a rebound that we had to have when the game was on the line. We also had a couple of big buckets relative to time and smart clock management."

"It was a well-fought game," said Tulane coach Lisa Stockton. "The key to this game was rebounding. We shot the ball from the field well but it came down to losing the rebounding battle by 22."

Rebounding was the most one-sided statistic in a closely played game from start to finish. MSU owned the glass 56-34. Otherwise, the statistics supported that this was a closely played game between two evenly matched teams.

Mississippi State took a 5-0 lead in the first minute of the game. Tulane wanted to play an up-tempo and answered with a 7-0 run in the next minute. Little did anyone realize that would be the only Green Wave lead for the afternoon.

MSU quickly tied the game but Tulane continually remained in easy striking distance.

When Tysheka Grimes got open for a lay-up that put MSU up by nine points with 3:30 remaining in the first half, the Wave, like any good basketball team, answered the challenge. By the 1:50 mark, it was a one-point MSU advantage. State took a 43-40 lead into the dressing room.

At the half, each team shot 47 percent from the floor. MSU was 17 for 36, while Tulane was 16 for 34. Each team forced six turnovers. Points in the paint, fast break points, second chance points, fast break points and bench scoring were either even or nearly even. MSU had a 23-17 rebounding advantage at the break.

There was one other statistic that demonstrated the team concept.

Grimes and Robin Porter combined for 27 of MSU's 43 first half points. Rack had 8, while Richard had 3 and Imesia Jackson did not score in the first half. That would change in the second half.

Grimes and Porter combined for two points in the second half, while Rack, Jackson and Richard all finished with double-figures in scoring.

The second half was an extremely physical game. MSU maintained the lead but could never deliver the knockout run. That is a credit to Tulane and the way they played.

"We shot a little rough from the 3-point line," Stockton admitted. "It really came down to losing the rebounds by 22. The fact that we were even in the game is a testimony. Our offensive game was just quick."

"They did some things to break us down down the stretch," Fanning admitted. "We found some ways to get a couple of good buckets and make some plays and Marneshia and Alexis were the two who made the big buckets in the last minute or so."

The final six minutes of the game was basically a two-point game, which set up the heroics in the last minute. But MSU was physically wearing down their opponent and out-rebounded Tulane 33-17 in the second half and a decisive 16-4 advantage on the offensive glass.

In the end it was rebounding that gave MSU the win.

After Rack made her field goal, Tulane took the ball the length of the floor. Their senior guard D'Aundra Henry missed a 10-foot jump shot with 39 seconds left. And after Porter won the battle in the paint for the rebound, she quickly got the ball into Richard's hands.

With Tulane electing not to foul, Richard got the ball into the frontcourt and eventually drove the lane before pulling up and hitting a jumper with 10 seconds left to give MSU a 77-73 lead.

Then Rack stole the inbound pass from Ashley Langford and passed the ball to Jackson, who was standing all alone beneath the MSU basket, for the game's final points with 3 seconds left.

"From a rebounding standpoint, we talked about the importance of the extra look," Fanning said. "In the first half we didn't get the number of looks we wanted, but we did in the second half."

"A lot of time you get out-rebounded because you don't shoot well," Stockton said. "They really hit the boards hard. I was disappointed with our positioning defensively. We just couldn't keep them away from the boards. Rebounding is the reason I believe we didn't make the NCAA."

Porter had her sixth career double-double with 15 points and a career high 16 rebounds. Jackson also had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

"We have to rebound the basketball," Fanning stated. "That's happen before and if Bethany Washington gives us nine boards and four offensive boards, she's keeping it alive for us. I would like to have more points but the rebound column, 56-34, I think that is an exclamation point."

Rack scored 18 points to lead MSU in scoring. Grimes had 14 points while Richard added 11 and Washington 7.

Jennifer Sands matched Rack's 18 points while garnering a team high 10 rebounds. Nikki Luckhurst added 16 points for Tulane.

The Lady Bulldogs attend class on Monday not knowing their opponent in the next round. Minnesota visits Western Kentucky on Monday night. The winner will host Mississippi State. If WKU wins, the game is likely to be played on Wednesday. If Minnesota wins, they will likely host MSU on Thursday.

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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