STARKVILLE, Miss. - After being chosen to finish 12th in the Southeastern Conference preseason media poll, most probably would have not given Mississippi State much of a chance this season. After all, the team did not have a single senior and of the three juniors, one was a junior college transfer. But, considering MState returned three starters from a year ago and introduced a freshman class with a bevy of accomplishments, it is no surprise that this team became the biggest surprise of the year.
Posting an 18-14 overall season record, including a 7-7 conference record, MState finished with a school-best 5-2 record on the road in league play. MSU received a bye in the 2007 Women's National Invitation Tournament and defeated Tulane in second round action before falling to Western Kentucky in the third round. It marked the program's ninth postseason tournament appearance.
Game after game the Lady Bulldogs fought and as a testament to their ability, a career individual mark or team record was achieved in 29 contests this season. MSU Head Coach Sharon Fanning also notched a mark of her own becoming the 29th NCAA Division I head coach to record 500 wins with their 74-43 win over Troy on Nov. 10, 2006.
Mississippi State also played a school-record four overtime contests this season, including a double overtime win over Kentucky, 83-75, in legendary Rupp Arena. The win marked the program's first double overtime victory since the 1984 campaign.
State garnered several quality wins throughout the season. On Nov. 30, State knocked off Florida State, 65-60, in overtime. At the time the Seminoles were receiving votes in two polls and the loss was their first of the season. To open conference play in January, MState went on the road and defeated the 20th-ranked Lady Razorbacks of the University of Arkansas. State's 81-73 victory was the first in the series since 2004 and only the second win for the program in games played in Fayetteville.
MState continued their road terror on Jan. 28 defeating the 22nd-ranked and archrival Mississippi in Oxford. Sophomore guard Marneshia Richard's last second shot just inside the three-point line gave MState the win. MSU also won the 2006 Atlanta Marriott Northwest/Georgia Tech Holiday Tournament with wins over Tennessee State and host Georgia Tech.
On five different occasions this year, the Maroon and White scoring corps posted five or more players in double figures in the same contest. Against Alabama, MState shot a season-high 53.6 percent, while also posting season-highs in three-point field goal percentage (50 percent) and free throw percentage (92.3 percent) against South Carolina. The Lady Bulldogs managed to also set single season records for rebounds (1,350) and blocked shots (124). MSU set a school record for blocks in a single game with 13 against Mississippi Valley State.
MSU relied heavily on the experience of its sophomore class during the year. Despite having played only one season, this class' expertise proved vital throughout the year.
With her 125 assists on the year, Richard passed Tan White's 124 assists to own the sophomore single season record. She also set the single game assists record with 11 against South Carolina. In addition to dishing the ball, Richard was not afraid to take it away. Her seven steals against then-13th ranked Purdue tied the single game steals record. The Lamar, Miss.,-native also notched the first double-double of her career with 13 points and 11 assists against the Gamecocks.
Robin Porter recorded three double-doubles on the year and brought down a career-high 16 rebounds and scored 15 points in the WNIT victory versus Tulane. She scored her 500th career point during the year and recorded double-figure scoring in 12 contests during the season.
Although playing in the Southeastern Conference for the first time, State's freshman class did not disappoint. Arriving in Starkville with accolades such as Miss Basketball for the state of Louisiana, all-State First Team and McDonald's High School all-America nominee, it was no doubt the class knew success. Joining the freshmen as a newcomer this season, Crawford, Miss.,-native Imesia Jackson returned home after spending two years at Southwest Tennessee Community College.
A native of Houma, La., Bethany Washington recorded three double-doubles on the year and tied the freshman single game record with four blocks against Western Kentucky. She had her best outing of the season at Kentucky posting 16 points and 10 rebounds. For her performance in the game, she garnered SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors. On seven different occasions, Washington posted double figures in the rebounding column.
Tysheka Grimes joined Washington on the freshman single-game blocks list and all-time list with four rejections against Mississippi. The Baton Rouge, La.,-native scored a career high 28 points against South Carolina going 11-for-17 from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the arc. She also netted back-to-back doubles on the year and became the first player since Tan White to accomplish the feat. She was once named SEC Freshman of the Week.
Jackson wrapped up her first year for the Lady Bulldogs posting three double-doubles. She tallied a career-high 12 rebounds in the WNIT win against Tulane and became a member of the 30-point scorers club when she netted 30 points against Florida State. Jackson scored in double figures 20 times during the season and ended the season averaging 12.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest.
For her efforts throughout the season, Alexis Rack was named a unanimous selection to the 2006-07 Southeastern Conference all-Freshman Team. Rack also scored in double figures in 10 straight contests, becoming the first player since Tan White to do so. She scored her season-high 24 points against Georgia Tech in the championship game of the Georgia Tech Holiday Tournament. During the contest, Rack drained six three-pointers en route to being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. She was named SEC Freshman of the Week twice during the year.
At the team's end-of-the-year banquet, Richard was honored with the Most Assists, Coaches and Best Defensive Player Awards, while Jackson earned the Most Deflections and Field Goal Percentage Awards. Newcomers Grimes (Most Improved), Rack (Free-Throw Percentage) and Washington (Best Rebounder) also came away with honors. Presented annually, the Sixth Player Award honors those who go above and beyond. This year's honoree was Lady Bulldog Booster Club membership chair Steve Demarais.
Sophomore Bethany Workman was honored for her off-the-court achievements with the Sonny Mullins Community Service Award and the Newsom Academic Award. The Springtown, Texas,-native was named to the Southeastern Conference's Community Service team for the second consecutive year. She participated in a mission trip to Kenya this past summer with World Changers International. She has also helped at the Starkville Church of God's Compassion Kitchen and with Bully's Book Blitz. Workman is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and MClub and participates in various other community service activities with both organizations. She is also a member of the Shackouls Honors College at MSU.
Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State University Head Track and Field Coach Al Schmidt has announced the signing Emily Crow of Tupelo, Miss. to a national letter-of-intent. Crow will begin competing for the Lady Bulldogs during the 2007-08 season.
Crow, a senior at Tupelo High School, is a five-time state champion combined in cross country and track. She claimed back-to-back state crowns as a freshman and sophomore for the THS squad. The distance standout's best times include five minutes, 19 seconds in the 1,600-meter run and 11:24 in the 3,300-meter run. Her mark in the 1,600 event came at the 2006 5A North Half State meet. At the 2006 Memphis Twilight meet, Crow finished with a time of 18:19 in the 5K layout.
"Emily is one of the best distance runners in the state since she was in seventh grade," said MSU head coach Al Schmidt. "She is a big signee for us and will contribute right away."
At the 2006 Mississippi State Cross Country Championships in Clinton, Miss., Crow placed fourth overall with a time of 15:18.16. She was the Golden Wave's top-finisher en route to THS winning the team title for the second-straight season. For winning the state crown, Tupelo participated in the Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Ore. Crow finished 45th in the field of 100 competitors.
"I am very excited about coming to Mississippi State," said Crow. "I had a great visit with the coaches and the team. I have been a Bulldog all my life."
An avid runner since the seventh grade, Crow also is a member of the National Honor Society, Anchor Club and Spanish National Honor Society.
Crow is the daughter of Allen and Suzanne Crow. Her father, Allen, is an assistant research professor with the Center of Environmental Health Sciences on the MSU campus. She is undecided on her major at State, but has an interest in communication with an emphasis on sports.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Mississippi State (31-21) tied a season-high with 16 hits, capped off by Katie Cooley's two-home runs, as the Bulldogs defeated Southern Miss (17-32), 10-6, in a slugfest at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.
Chelsea Bramlett led off the game with an infield single, but was thrown out trying to steal second, snapping a streak of 38 consecutive stolen bases. Hayle Guess followed with a single, but Courtney Bures grounded into a double play to end the top of the first.
Southern Miss grabbed an early lead in the bottom of the inning. Kelsey Nurnberg struck out Brandi Alonzo leading off. But, Jennifer Fox and Logan James hit back-to-back singles, putting runners at first and second. After Megan Hill popped foul, Lauren Castellvi walked, loading the bases. Kristin Pilgrim then hit the first pitch into left field, scoring Fox and James for a 2-0 USM lead. Allison Bullard popped to second to end the inning.
MSU tied the game in the second. Katie Cooley drew a leadoff walk, and Sammie Jo Bailey singled to left field. After Katie Johnson singled, Jessie Bailey hit a ground ball to short. But the ball got by Kristen Chaney, allowing pinch-runner Megan Bateman to score. After Michelle Kinney was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Nakita Boyce hit a sacrifice fly to center, bringing home Sammie Jo Bailey with the tying run. Chelsea Bramlett then flew out to center, stranding runners at first and second.
The Golden Eagles regained the lead in the bottom half. Melissa Prouty hit a leadoff single up the middle, and was sacrificed to second. Two batters later, Fox doubled over Guess' head in center, bringing home Fox with USM's third run. Logan James flied out to center to end the inning, but Southern Miss had the 3-2 lead.
Mississippi State took its first lead in the third. Guess singled through the left side and Bures singled to right field, marking the third straight inning the Bulldogs' first two hitters reached base. Guess and Bures then pulled off a double steal, giving MSU 107 stolen bases on the year, setting a new single-season team record. Cooley then got a hold of Samantha Davis' 2-1 offering and sent it over the left field wall for her second home run of the year and giving MSU the 5-3 lead. The home run moved Cooley into sole possession of fifth place all-time at State with 15 career home runs.
MSU added another run in the third on Nakita Boyce's second sacrifice fly of the night, and the Bulldogs led 6-3 through two and a half innings.
Megan Hill singled to left field. Southern Miss then perfected a hit-and-run, as Castellvi put the ball through the right side as Johnson went to cover second, and the Golden Eagles had runners in scoring position with no out. Kristin Pilgrim pulled USM within one with a ground out to second. Bullard then made it 6-5 with a double to left center field, ending Stephanie Comeaux's day. Kelli Miller came on for MSU and got Prouty and Chaney to ground to third, holding the one-run lead.
MState regained its three-run lead in the fourth. With one out, Bures doubled into the left field corner. Cooley then hit Davis' 3-1 pitch off the scoreboard in left center field for her second home run of the night, giving the Bulldogs an 8-5 advantage.
Southern Miss made it 8-6 in the sixth on Allison Bullard's leadoff home run.
Mississippi State tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh.
Kelli Miller threw 4 2/3 of relief, striking out two to earn the victory. Cooley led the Bulldogs at the plate, going 3-for-3 with two runs and five RBI.
The Bulldogs return to conference play this weekend when they travel to Florida to face the Gators in a three-game series beginning Friday.