MSU Lady Bulldogs Defeat Alabama 72-59

After about 10 minutes of jockeying for the lead at the beginning of the contest, the Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs took advantage of a young, inexperienced Alabama team to open up a 12-point lead with 7:51 left in the first half. With Sunday's early-game meltdown in the back of their minds, the Lady Bulldogs successfully blocked that thought out and held on for a 72-59 victory Thursday night.

Sunday's early-game lead for Mississippi State (14-7, 2-4 SEC) was uncannily similar to Thursday night's game, as the leads were within one minute of each other in relation to time remaining in the first half. The only difference in this game was the time that elapsed before the opposition mounted a comeback. In the Arkansas game, the Lady Backs mounted a successful comeback late in the first half. In Thursday's game, Alabama's most dangerous comeback began early in the second half.

Alabama (8-13, 1-5 SEC) went on a 14-5 run during the early part of the second half, which was sparked by center Talisha Chandler's seven points. Mississippi State's lead was trimmed to only three points after a layup by Tierney Jenkins. But the comparisons to the previous game stopped there, as Mississippi State held its ground.

"They started coming back and we kind of got down, but we gained back momentum and just took control of the game," said junior Robin Porter, who scored 14 points in the game.

Porter was key for the Lady Bulldogs during the last five minutes of the game, where she scored six points. She was also key on the defensive end during that stretch, grabbing two important rebounds and blocking two of her career-high five blocks. Porter's five blocks put her into a tie for second place on the all-time record for blocks in a single game.

"Contesting shots is important," said Lady Bulldog head coach Sharon Fanning. "We usually don't stress blocking shots because we are usually smaller than our opponents, but those blocks were big for us."

Two of Porter's deflections occurred within the first five minutes of the contest, a time which proved to be crucial in keeping Alabama at bay before much offensive production came from the Lady Bulldogs' offense.

But a Mississippi State offensive spurt came shortly after those Porter blocks. With 6-foot-2-inch sophomore center and leading rebounder Talisha Chandler picking up two fouls in the first three minutes of the contest, the Lady Bulldogs took advantage by going on a 13-4 run.

Freshman guard Mary Kathryn Govero was the captain of the run. She nailed short jumpers from along the baseline on both sides of the court and nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Lady Bulldogs their 12-point advantage.

"In practice this week, I've been hitting some shots," said Govero, who finished with 11 points. "So I guess I gained some confidence. I didn't think about it. I just shot!"

Alexis Rack scored a game-high 19 points, with all five of her successful field goals coming from behind the 3-point line. Marneshia Richard rounded out the double-digit scoring category with 10 points.

The high-scoring effort, which was Mississippi State's highest-scoring contest of the conference schedule, and aggressive defense was noted by Alabama head coach Stephany Smith.

"You have to give Mississippi State an awful lot of credit," Smith said. "I thought that they played extremely hard. Everybody in Starkville should be proud of their team for the way they played tonight."

The Lady Bulldogs will now try to translate that win into another one as they go for two in a row when they travel to Auburn on Sunday for a 2 p.m. tipoff. The team's next home game will be Thursday, Feb. 7 when they host the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.

"Hopefully we will step up, be focused and play our best basketball at Auburn on Sunday," said Fanning.

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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