MSU Lady Bulldogs Lose to Georgia Lady 'Dogs

In a game that saw 10 lead changes and 14 ties, with many of both coming in the final 10 minutes, the Lady Bulldogs played at the high level that they have recently shown they are capable of competing at. However, they couldn't sustain that effort during the waning moments as they suffered a narrow 60-56 loss to the No. 24 Georgia Lady Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon.

"The biggest point of emphasis for our team is that in the last four ball games, we have competed in a way where you can win ballgames," Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning said. "There haven't been 40 minutes in each game, but the first part is to put yourself in a position to win."

That summed up the feelings of an obviously frustrated Fanning, who saw her Lady Bulldogs (15-11, 3-8 SEC) fall for the fourth time in five conference games. In the previous four games, Fanning noted that she has seen the team show terrific intensity during each of those games but hasn't seen that intensity on a consistent basis. That includes a near-comeback from a 28 point deficit against Ole Miss last Thursday night.

In the latest setback against the Lady Bulldogs of Georgia (19-7, 6-5 SEC), Mississippi State played at that high level for the majority of the game but it wavered during the waning moments of the contest.

Georgia had a 58-56 lead with one minute remaining in the game and possession of the ball. The Georgia squad took it to its offensive side of the court and looked for an easy opening. Feeling the defensive pressure on the inside, Georgia took it to the outside where forward Tasha Humphrey, who finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, shot an off-balance 3-pointer. The miss clanged off the back iron and was rebounded by Jasmine Lee with 33 seconds left.

Following a time-out, Georgia passed the ball in-bounds. Instead of electing to foul the Georgia player who had possession of the ball, the team chose to play hard defense and Alexis Rack forced a clean steal away from Ashley Houts. Rack then drove down the court and to the basket for a layup, which was swatted away by Humphrey with 19 seconds left on the clock.

"We came down and penetrated hard. I wanted us to get it to the rim there," said Fanning of the possession.

Mississippi State passed the ball back onto the court with an opportunity to tie the game with a two-pointer and could make a 3-pointer to win the game. Marneshia Richard dribbled the ball at the top of the key and looked to make her move as the clock dwindled. She drove inside a bit and took a shot with about five seconds left. The shot caromed off the backboard into the hands of Imesia Jackson. When Jackson came down with the offensive board, she turned her ankle and went down in pain. She couldn't get rid of the ball before she crumpled to the floor and was called for a traveling violation with 3.6 seconds left. Two ensuing Georgia free throws ended Mississippi State's hopes of a comeback.

"That was a hard-fought game," said Richard, who scored a team-high 15 points. "We tried to make a run at the end, but they're a good team and were able to keep us off with their big plays at the end."

Richard made most of her shots from outside of the paint, which was where Georgia's physicality was most apparent. The 6-feet-3-inch Humphrey and 6-feet-5-inch Angel Robinson kept most of the Mississippi State post players in check during the first half. They used their height to their advantage en route to a 29-26 halftime lead.

But in the second half, Mississippi State went at the Georgia post players, causing them into foul trouble early in the half. It eventually led to Robinson fouling out with 3:55 left in the contest.

Though she was up against girls who were four to six inches taller than she was, Mississippi State junior forward Robin Porter said she wasn't intimidated. She just wished that she and her teammates would have made smarter plays against the taller Georgia players.

"They're big, but we should've just played harder and got in better position to contest their shots," said Porter, who fouled out late in the game but finished with eight points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.

Contesting shots and rebounding were only two of the areas Fanning said her team needed to improve on as it makes its way into a very difficult stretch, which begins with a game at South Carolina on Thursday at 6 p.m.

"In the next game, one more offensive rebound, one more charge, one more deflection, one more great shot or one more free throw," said Fanning. "If you look at just one more of a lot of different areas, that may make a 10 point difference in the next ballgame."

After the game against South Carolina, Mississippi State will travel to face Tennessee on Feb. 24 and will finish out the season at home against LSU on March 2. "We have two Final Four opponents in the next three ballgames, so it doesn't get any tougher than that for anyone in the country," said Fanning.

Fanning will stress to the team the necessity of adding consistency, but what else can the Mississippi State squad do to improve their record as the season comes to a close?

"We just have to come back and work hard in practice," Richard said. "We have to build off the good things, and work harder on blocking out and hitting shots. We're going to try to put all of this behind us and try to get a win on the road."


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


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