MSU Lady Bulldogs Lose to Kentucky 64-60

After trailing for the majority of Sunday's game, Lady Bulldog forward Imesia Jackson connected on a short jumper and sank an ensuing free throw to move into a 46-46 tie with the visiting Lady Wildcats with ten minutes left in the game. However, Mississippi State could not gain the lead and ultimately fell short in a close 64-60 loss to Kentucky at the Humphrey Coliseum.

Aside from a 2-0 lead to start the game, the Lady Bulldogs (12-5 overall, 0-2 SEC) could not gain the upper hand on the scoreboard at any point in the contest. The game was tied four times, culminating with the previously mentioned 46-46 tie at the midpoint of the second half. But that's not to say that the Mississippi State squad was consistently blown out of the water by Kentucky. The lead only increased to double digits for a brief moment in the first half when the Lady Wildcats gained an 11-point lead with seven minutes, 30 seconds remaining until halftime.

It just seemed to Lady Bulldog head coach Sharon Fanning that every time her team was close to gaining that elusive lead, it would fail in the fundamentals department and squander the opportunity.

"Once you get back into a game, you can't give up a lay-up, you can't give up an offensive board, you can't take a bad shot," Fanning said. "You have to make a stand at that point, and we just didn't do that enough times."

On the opposite end of that spectrum was Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell, who said he was proud of the way his team responded when its lead was challenged in the second half.

"We were ecstatic to get this win," Mitchell said. "It was really, really tough. Our players competed at an extremely high level today physically, mentally and emotionally.

"When it was tied up in the second half, not a lot was going right for us. For us to be able to battle back and get this win, it was great for our team and I'm really happy for our players."

Sunday's game marked the Lady Bulldogs' first game of the season without junior guard Marneshia Richard, who received a broken nose in the team's previous game against Vanderbilt. Richard was a primary distributor of the ball for the team, so the team was looking for some stability on the offensive side of the ball.

Sophomore forward Tysheka Grimes scored a game-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds, while senior forward Imesia Jackson and sophomore guard Alexis Rack rounded out the Mississippi State double-digit scorers with 10 points each.

Freshman Mary Kathryn Govero, starting in place of the injured Richard, entered the starting line-up for the first time this season, scoring six points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field.

Govero will be one of the players who will have to step up during the absence of Richard. Fanning acknowledged that the game today was part of that adjustment period.

"For us right now, the adjustment without Marneshia is something that we just have to work through," said Fanning. "All of a sudden, you have three players who will have to play a lot more minutes."

Fanning noted that things will specifically be different on the offensive side of the ball for Rack.

"Alexis has to play the game from a little different look," she said. "She has been used to a lot of folks making some things happen for her to get some shots and her getting them from a secondary look for the majority of the ballgame. Now she has the ball in her hands initially. And she can make a few things happen initially, but when you're guarded hard then you're going to have to get rid of the ball and be able to get it back."

Grimes said the team will have to make some changes to emerge from the recent funk that it has found itself in.

"We have to go to practice and keep working hard," said Grimes, a Baton Rouge native. "We're 0-2 right now, so now we have to turn it into a winning streak instead of a losing streak. We have to go practice hard and stay coachable to get to the level where we need to be."

The Lady Bulldogs will now have a week to make those adjustments before they step back onto the court next Sunday in Baton Rouge where they will square off against the Lady Tigers of LSU in a game slated for a 2 p.m. tip-off.

Brent Wilburn, a sports reporter for the MSU student newspaper The Reflector, is a staff reporter for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network.

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