Lady Bulldogs Fall to No. 13 Tennessee

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State took 13th-ranked Tennessee to the wire, before falling 63-56 in a Southeastern Conference women's basketball game Thursday night in the Humphrey Coliseum.

The Lady Volunteers scored the final nine points of the game to win an amazing 29th straight contest from the Lady Bulldogs. UT shook off a Sunday loss to Vanderbilt to improve to 13-3 overall and 2-1 in league play. MSU fell to 13-4 and 1-2.

A Humphrey Coliseum crowd of 4,629 (fifth largest in school history) saw another epic battle between the longtime rivals. The teams were tied five times in the contest and the lead changed hands six different times. The Lady Bulldogs held a seven point lead midway through the first half, while the Lady Volunteers' largest lead was the final margin in the contest.

MSU grabbed a 56-54 lead on a Chanel Mokango jumper in the lane with 2:53 remaining in the contest. UT tied the contest when Angie Bjorklund answered with a fast-break layup on the other end. MSU then missed a chance to take the lead when Alexis Rack came up short on a 3-point shot attempt. On the other end, Shekinna Stricklen gave the Lady Vols the lead for good on a 3-point basket.

After a missed layup and the missed front end of a one-by-one by MSU, UT stretched the lead to the final margin by hitting four free throws in the final 41 seconds of play.

"Winning a big basketball game comes down to every possession," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning said. "We have some experience but at the same time we are still learning one another. Now, we just have to regroup and get ready for a big road trip."

The Lady Bulldogs sprinted to a 10-3 advantage behind a pair of Rack 3-pointers. The Lady Volunteers would also trail 13-7 before righting the ship with a 10-0 run. The teams stayed closed from there, as the guests eased into halftime with a 32-30 advantage.

The second half remained close throughout. The Lady Bulldogs built up a 44-40 advantage on a putback with Mokango with 11:30 left. The Lady Volunteers did not get back even until a layup by Alyssia Brewer tied the teams 54-54 with 2:53 remaining.

"When the game began, we talked about turnovers," Fanning said. "We thought we could force them into some turnovers and get some easy looks. Defensively, we did a good job of that. However, we made too many mistakes on our end of the floor."

Rack and Mokango each scored 15 points to pace the Lady Bulldogs' efforts. Robin Porter was also in double figures with 12 points and added a team-high nine rebounds. Mokango added seven blocks. Stricklen was one of three UT players in double figures with 15 points. Bjorkuland added 14 points and Brewer scored 10 points. Alex Fuller had nine rebounds for the Lady Vols.

For the contest, MSU hit 21 of 58 shots (36.2 percent), 5 of 14 3-point attempts (35.7 percent) and 9 of 12 foul shots (75.0). UT hit 19 of 56 shots (33.9 percent), 7 of 13 3-point attempts (53.8 percent) and 18 of 26 foul shots (69.2 percent). UT held a 42-38 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 11 assists and 18 turnovers, while the Lady Vols had 10 assists and 15 turnovers.

MSU returns to action Sunday with a road contest at Kentucky. The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Wildcats have a 3 p.m. CT start. That contest will be televised regionally by the Big Blue Sports Network and will be shown in selected markets on Fox Sports Net South. Tennessee hosts South Carolina at 2 p.m. CT Sunday. That contest will also be shown regionally by Fox Sports Net South and SportSouth in certain markets.

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