Lady Bulldogs Lose To Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- An inability to down the stretch proved costly Thursday night as the Mississippi State women's basketball team dropped its Southeastern Conference opener. The Lady Bulldogs fell to 18th-ranked Florida 80-66 before a raucous crowd in the O'Connell Center.

The teams played early Thursday as the UF student body anticipated the national championship football game between the Gators and Oklahoma. Fans were encouraged to attend the basketball game and then watch the football game on the widescreens in the coliseum.

The announced attendance of 6,500 saw a highly-entertaining, offensively-dominated contest. The lead swapped hands several times before a 37-37 tie at halftime. In the final half, the Lady Gators built the lead in the middle stages of the half and the Lady Bulldogs failed to recover.

The Lady Gators won their 15th straight game, improving to 15-1 overall and 1-0 in league play. Meanwhile, MSU dropped its eighth straight contest against a ranked opponent. The Lady Bulldogs are now 12-3 overall and 0-1 in league play. Thursday's loss also meant MSU has now lost back-to-back games for the first time this season.

"Florida has some all-conference seniors and they have experience," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning said. "They have beaten some good teams. They have experience and depth. We were going to have to do the little things well.

"We didn't do that. We were too tentative. We had too many turnovers. They were panic turnovers. They were a mentally-tough team and we have to be a tougher team."

MSU trailed 11-4 in the early stages of the first half. A pair of 3-point baskets by Alexis Rack and another 3-point basket by Armelie Lumanu fueled an 11-0 run as the Lady Bulldogs grabbed a 15-11 lead. Florida battled back quickly for 15-15 tie before MSU grabbed its largest lead of the day, at 30-24 on another 3-pointer by Lumanu with 4:36 left in the half.

In the final half, the Lady Bulldogs grabbed their final lead of the contest at 46-45 on a layup by Robin Porter with 16:17 left. The Lady Gators then used defensive pressure to reel off an 8-0 run, taking the lead for good. MSU battled back to three on two different occasions but got no closer.

"We have to learn how to play 40 minutes of basketball," Fanning said. "We have to play harder and smarter offensively. Two or three possessions can make a big difference in a ballgame."

Tysheka Grimes hit three 3-point baskets and finished with a season-high 19 points for MSU. Chanel Mokango added 17 points, while Lumanu finished with 14 points. Mokango had a team-high nine rebounds and a team-high five blocked shots, while Porter had eight boards.

Sha Brooks paced the Lady Gators with a career-high 31 points. Also in double figures were Marshae Dotson with 17 points and Sharielle Smith with 11 points. Dotson had nine rebounds for the victors.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 22 of 58 shots (37.9 percent), 7 of 22 3-point attempts (31.8 percent) and 15 of 20 foul shots (75.0 percent). The Lady Gators hit 29 of 56 shots (51.8 percent), 4 of 13 3-point attempts (30.8) and 18 of 23 foul shots (78.3 percent).

MSU held a 37-33 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 13 assists and 25 turnovers, while the Lady Gators had 11 assists and 20 turnovers. The Lady Bulldogs hit five 3-pointers in the opening half but only hit two in the final half.

The Lady Bulldogs return home for a 2 p.m. start Sunday against in-state rival Ole Miss. That contest has been designated as "Pack The Hump" day. MSU then remains home for a 7 p.m. Thursday night regionally-televised contest with seventh-ranked Tennessee. That game will be shown by CSS.

Gene's Page Top Stories