News from MSU Media Relations--November 19

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Men's Basketball, Softball and Women's Basketball.

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - After opening the season with a 2-0 ledger following wins against Centenary and Louisiana-Monroe, Mississippi State aims for a 3-0 start at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Division II foe North Alabama in the opening round of the Legends Classic at Humphrey Coliseum.

It will be the third meeting between the schools, with MSU winning the two previous outings.

Likewise, the Lions cross state lines sporting a 2-0 mark.

Mississippi State, which hosts Fairleigh Dickinson at 6 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the Legends Classic, has faced five different schools from the Gulf South Conference and has won 24 of the 25 games.

Following a stop at St. Bonaventure on Nov. 25, MSU resumes action in the Legends Classic in the championship rounds in Newark, N.J. The Bulldogs were guaranteed a berth to the final two rounds despite how they fared against the Lions and Knights. Also receiving guarantees were Pittsburgh, Texas Tech and Washington State.

MSU and the Cougers open play in Newark on Nov. 28 at 4:30 p.m.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team has signed Stephanie Becker (Aurora, Ill.), Jessica Cooley (Birmingham, Ala.), Shelby Fisher (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Erin Nesbit (Acworth, Ga.) and Kylie Vry (Des Moines, Iowa) to national letters of intent for the 2009-2010 academic year, head coach Jay Miller announced Monday.

"I feel really good about this class. We have some outstanding young athletes who can step in and contribute immediately," Miller said. "We are only losing two players after this season, so these five players will give us some added depth. We are looking forward to getting them here and working with them next year."

Becker comes to Starkville having earned three letters for Dave Zine's West Aurora High School squad. Becker has been named all-conference the past two seasons in addition to receiving all-area accolades from the Beacon News and Daily Herald. She has compiled a 43-17 career record with 554 strikeouts. Becker fanned 200 and compiled a 0.78 ERA in winning 14 games last season.

She earned Beacon News Player of the Year in 2007 after compiling a 17-5 record with 221 strikeouts and 0.13 ERA which ties for 12th all-time in Illinois high school history. Her stellar sophomore campaign helped WAHS to a second straight regional championship.

"Stephanie spins the ball very well, and she has played at a high level the past couple of years," Miller said. "She will give us some depth on the mound and be able to contribute innings immediately."

Becker followed her outstanding 2007 prep campaign by winning 18 games and striking out 154 for Joe Tholl's Orland Park Sparks travel team that won the ASA Qualifier in Owensboro, Ky., and finished fourth at a qualifying tournament in Indianapolis.

Cooley earned 2008 ASWA Class 6A all-state honors playing for Danny Dobose at Oak Mountain High School. The younger sister of former Bulldog outfielder Katie Cooley, she has earned all-area and Over the Mountain honors each year of her varsity career. Last season she was selected to the ASWA all-state team after guiding Oak Mountain to second in the area, its second sub-state appearance in three years and a top 10 state ranking.

"Jessica is a tremendous athlete who can play a number of positions," Miller said. "She runs very well and will be able to contribute in a variety of ways. Jessica will be a good threat offensively and on the bases."

Cooley played the past two summers for the Birmingham Skyhawks. This past season she helped the squad to second place at the ASA state tournament after winning the Alabama NSA title in 2007. That 2007 edition also finished seventh at the prestigious Colorado Fireworks tournament and claimed second in the Florida World Series.

Fisher comes to Mississippi State following a prep career in which she earned all-Desert Valley Region accolades three times and all-state honors twice for Blaize Gatti's Horizon High School team. Fisher, whose mother Nancy is an MSU alumnus, hit .411 and drove in 28 runs a year ago in helping the Huskies to a fifth-place finish at the Arizona 5A Division II state tournament. She hit .387 with 34 RBIs in earning team MVP honors as a sophomore, a year after she batted .301 in helping HHS to a third-place state finish.

"Shelby is a good slapper who can also hit for power. She has played on one of the top Gold teams in the country, and she will give us a good left-handed bat in the lineup and another versatile defender," Miller said.

Fisher played the past summer with the AZ Desert Thunder. She hit .414 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in the Thunder's run to the prestigious ASA Gold National Tournament. Playing for the Killer Bees in 2007, Fisher batted at a .409 clip and belted 10 home runs while driving in 61 runs in leading the team to a 55-14 record and a national tournament berth.

Nesbit will join her older sister Courtney on the Bulldog softball team following an award-filled prep career at Harrison High School that ended with a second straight all-region honor from the Marietta Daily Journal. Nesbit earned a spot in the prestigious Georgia Dugout Club All-Star Team this season after hitting .384 with 24 RBIs, two home runs and 29 runs scored. HHS's Wendy's High School Heisman Award winner collected all-state accolades from the Atlanta Journal Constitution the past two seasons and was tabbed Harrison's 2006 MVP after hitting .354 and leading the team to the 5AAAAA region championship for the second straight year.

"Erin is a tremendous shortstop who possesses a lot of athleticism," Miller said. "She has great speed on the bases and power at the plate. She has the ability both offensively and defensively to come in and compete right away."

Nesbit spent last summer with the Atlanta Vipers. She hit .387 with six home runs, 34 RBIs and 44 runs scored as the Vipers advanced to ASA Gold nationals. The trip to Oklahoma City was the third for Nesbit as she also made trips with Georgia Extreme Gold in 2007 and the 2006 Georgia Fire squad that finished ninth-best in the country.

Vry also brings stellar travel ball credentials to the Maroon and White. With Iowa's high school season falling during the summer, Vry decided to spend her final two prep campaigns playing for the Gold Coast Hurricanes out of Florida. Last summer she was one of five pitchers who helped hurl the Hurricanes to the ASA Gold national championship, the most prestigious title in amateur softball.

"The addition of Kylie and Stephanie will give us four left-handers on the pitching staff," Miller said. "Kylie spins the ball very well and has tremendous potential to come in and help us immediately."

Vry capped her high school career in 2007 by earning Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Elite Team All-State honors. She compiled a 0.27 ERA and struck out 378 over 186 innings for Bob Ligouri's Des Moines East squad that won the CIML conference for the third straight year. She highlighted her final season with a high school-record 19 strikeouts in a seven-inning no-hitter. Vry worked mainly in a reliever's role in 2006, saving eight games with a 0.61 ERA for an East squad that captured the Iowa 4A state title.

Women's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State won its 23rd straight home opener in women's basketball Tuesday night. The Lady Bulldogs led from start to finish, racing past an out-manned squad from Arkansas-Pine Bluff 94-52 at Humphrey Coliseum.

Coach Sharon Fanning improved to 10-4 in season openers with MSU. The Lady Bulldogs rolled up their biggest margin of victory in an opener, since taking down Alabama A&M 88-42 in the 2001-02 season opener. MSU last lost its home opener in the 1985-86 season, when the Lady Bulldogs lost 65-64 to Mississippi College.

"This was a good first game," Fanning said. "We were able to play a lot of players and look at different combinations. I thought we did a good job of sharing the basketball. The assists to turnovers ratio (24 assists, 11 turnovers) was outstanding."

The teams were tied 5-5 early before the hosts put together a 16-6 run for a 21-11 lead. Mary Kathryn Govero provided a spark with back-to-back baskets during that run. The Lady Bulldogs also had a pair of blocks from newcomers Armelie Lumanu and Chanel Mokango during that run.

The Lady Bulldogs continued a blistering first half from the field, ramming home five of six shots during a stretch that saw the half's biggest lead open up at 35-19.

MSU maintained the 16-point push, leading 43-27 at the intermission.

"The important thing at halftime was maintaining the focus," MSU junior guard Alexis Rack said. "Last year, we would have a letdown at times. For us to be a good a basketball team, we have to have focus for forty minutes."

In the game's final half, the Lady Bulldogs turned up the defensive pressure, forcing 13 of the Golden Lions' 20 turnovers in the final stanza.

The hosts sprinted from the second half gates, reeling off 12 straight points to open a 55-27 advantage. Lumanu had a pair of nice baskets during that run.

In the final half, the Lady Bulldogs continued to hover at the 50 percent mark from the field. The defensive pressure was a also a key and never let up. MSU ended the contest with a 17-5 run to create the game's final margin.

Lumanu was one of five Lady Bulldogs in double figures. The 5-foot-9 junior had 20 points on 9 of 15 shooting from the field. Rack followed with 17 points, while Govero finished with 13 points. Tysheka Grimes added 12 points, while Mokango scored 11 points.

Donnisha Tate and Mokango each had a team-high seven rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs. Tate had six assists and only one turnover in 20 minutes of action. Rack and Lumanu each added five assists to the Lady Bulldogs' cause.

Arica Green paced UAPB (1-1) with 14 points, while Ciara Shields had 10 points. Ava Walters paced the Golden Lions with nine rebounds.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs finished at 50 percent from the field, converting on 33 of 66 shots. MSU was 6 of 11 from 3-point range (54.5 percent) and 22 of 29 at the foul line (75.9 percent).

UAPB remained cold all night, hitting on 23 percent of its shot attempts (14 of 61). The Golden Lions were 3 of 14 from 3-point range (21.4 percent) and 21 of 30 from the foul line (70.0 percent).

The Lady Bulldogs held a slim 46-42 in the rebounding department and were credited with 13 blocked shots, including four by Mokango and three by Grimes.

MSU resumes its season-opening three-game homestand by hosting Northwestern State at 2 p.m. Sunday. The homestand closes with Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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