MSU Lady Bulldogs Defeat Florida 83-71

More often than not, the Lady Bulldogs enjoy a victory when they are the first to put points on the scoreboard. Sunday was no exception to that trend as they amassed 20 unanswered points in the early portion of the game en route to an 83-71 win over the Florida Gators.

Mississippi State (15-9, 3-6 SEC) improved to 11-3 when it puts the ball through the basket before its opposition. The bucket that gave the Lady Bulldogs their first points was an innocent layup by senior forward Imesia Jackson. The 18 consecutive points that followed that one layup weren't quite as innocent as they buried the Gators (15-9, 4-5 SEC) from the get-go.

Tysheka Grimes, Robin Porter, Marneshia Richard and Jackson commandeered the vital 20-0 run to put the hammer down against a Florida team that just looked out of sync during the run.

The Lady Bulldogs forced five turnovers during that stretch and capitalized with eight points off those Gator gaffes.

"I thought our defense and transition helped us get that early lead," Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning said.

The overall effort shown during that first fives minutes could partially be credited to the intensity the team showed during Thursday's game against No. 2 Tennessee. In that game, the team reeled off 21 unanswered points in the first half only to fall in the end.

"We came out from the intensity from the last game, and we were all just clicking together, running and playing hard," said Porter, who scored a season-high 18 points.

Porter was a member of the three-pronged Lady Bulldogs scoring attack. Grimes and Jackson also scored 18 points each, and freshman Mary Kathryn Govero rounded out the Bulldogs in double-figures with 12 points.

Grimes also contributed a game-high 10 rebounds to her team's cause. Those boards combined with her points gave her the fifth double-double of her career.

"Against Tennessee, as a team we played together with more intensity," Grimes said. "Individually, I felt like I needed to get better. I tried to carry that over and incorporate the loss against Tennessee to this win against Florida."

In the previous game, the Lady Bulldogs slacked off of that intensity in the second half. That allowed Tennessee to sneak back into the game and seize the victory in the second frame.

At times, the Lady Bulldogs seemed lackadaisical during the latter portions of the game. And they did allow the Gators to out-score them 50-39 in the second half, which was a problem for Fanning.

"When you play against a great team like Florida, they're going to come back," Fanning said. "I thought that we lost our intensity and our focus in the second half. We just became complacent and didn't guard as hard."

But it all comes back to that early lead, which stretched to as many as 26 points mid-way through the first half. It turned out to be insurmountable on Sunday afternoon, and it helped Mississippi State end its two-game skid.

"Once you get tired of losing, you have to do something about it and that's what we did," said a relieved Jackson.

Jackson and her teammates will go on the road Thursday night for a Valentine's Day showdown against in-state rival Ole Miss at 7 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs defeated their rivals in their match-up earlier this season, and they will look for the season sweep in Oxford.

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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