Lady Bulldogs Knock Off Cincinnati, 76-70

STARKVILLE, Miss. ­ Homestanding and 20th-ranked Mississippi State (3-1) fought off a 31.4 percent first half shooting effort with a 63 percent showing in the second half as the Lady Bulldogs knocked off 18th-ranked Cincinnati (0-1), 76-70, Friday evening in Humphrey Coliseum.

LaToya Thomas scored 24 of her game-high 36 points in the second half and tallied 10 rebounds to record the 38th double-double performance of her career. Tan White was MSU's only other scorer in double digits, collecting 17 points and turning in four assists. Valerie King paced the Bearcats with 27 points, including a 5-for-8 night from beyond the arc.

The Lady Bulldogs hit a season-best 92.3 percent from the charity stripe, led by Thomas' 12-for-13 effort. State also out-rebounded the Bearcats 38-20, including a 20-5 advantage in offensive boards. Mississippi State got 10 points from its bench, eight of which came from the hands of Mamie McKinney, while five players that came off Cincinnati's bench combined for just one shot and no points.

"You have to communicate to win," said Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning. "We found a way to win and we did it together. We got to the free throw line and we continued to rebound."

Mississippi State scored six of the second half's first eight points to tie the score for the first time since tipoff on Thomas' layup with 17 minutes left, then took the lead for the first time on a pair of Rebecca Kates free throws 26 seconds later. State stretched its lead to as much as seven on two separate occasions midway through the period, then saw its lead dwindle to one on King's free throws with 3:51 left. The Bearcats made a run down the stretch, however, and had its chances, but key turnovers by King, as well as Meghan Hillman, sealed the Bearcats' fate.

Mississippi State started the game stone cold, shooting just 20 percent through the first 12 minutes of play as Cincinnati forged a 14-point lead, 24-10, on K.B. Sharp's jumper with 8:17 remaining. But the Lady Bulldogs responded with a 15-2 run that lasted much of the next five and a half minutes and cut MSU's deficit to just one, 26-25, on Thomas' layup with 3:01 left.

"They did a really good job of changing up their defense on us and it gave us problems," said Cincinnati head coach Laurie Pirtle. "We became an undisciplined team which is a credit to MSU's defense.

"Their two players, Thomas and White, stepped up and carried the team. They won the game and they deserved the game."

The Lady Bulldogs will return to action on Wednesday when the Maroon and White begin a seven-game year-ending roadtrip at Houston. Game time is set for 5:30 p.m. at Guy V. Lewis Court at Hofheinz Pavilion on the campus of the University of Houston.

Alexander 3-6 5-7 11, Young 1-2 1-2 3, Merrill 9-13 4-4 22, Sharp 3-11 0-0 7, King 8-12 6-6 27, Dozier 0-1 0-0 0, Harvey 0-0 0-0 0, Hillman 0-0 0-0 0, Stevenson 0-0 0-0 0, Stephens 0-0 0-0. Totals 24-45 16-19 70.

Thomas 12-20 12-13 36, Kates 0-2 3-4 3, Chekwa 4-10 0-0 8, Jones 1-5 0-0 2, White 8-16 0-2 17, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, McKinney 2-6 4-4 8, Anderson 1-3 0-0 2, Stringfellow 0-0 0-0 0, Burton 0-0 0-0 0, McGhee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-62 19-23 76.

Halftime ­ Cincinnati 31, Mississippi State 29.
Fouled Out Alexander.
Rebounds ­ Cincinnati 20 (Merrill 4), Mississippi State 38 (Thomas 10).
Assists ­ Cincinnati 14 (Sharp 7), Mississippi State 9 (Jones, White 4).
Total Fouls ­ Cincinnati 22, Mississippi State 18.
Attendance 1,608.

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