Lady Bulldogs Knock Off No. 20 Vanderbilt

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Playing some of its best basketball of the season, the Mississippi State women's basketball team knocked off No. 20 Vanderbilt 66-61 in a Southeastern Conference game Thursday night in the Humphrey Coliseum,

The Lady Bulldogs knocked off a ranked opponent at home for the first time since an 88-76 win over No. 20 Florida in 2004. Overall, MSU snapped a 10-game skid against ranked opponents, winning for the first time since a 73-71 triumph over No. 22 Ole Miss in 2007 in Oxford.

MSU snapped five-game losing streak in its series with Vanderbilt. The Lady Bulldogs also shook up the conference race, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to knock off a league leader.

The Lady Bulldogs improved to 17-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play. The Commodores fell to 17-6 and 6-2. For MSU, Coach Sharon Fanning recorded career win No. 550 Thursday night. Also, Alexis Rack scored 14 points as the junior guard became the 15th player in MSU history to top 1,000 career points.

"I am very proud of this win," Fanning said. "It was a total group effort. This is a very big win for the program. Now, we need this to carry over to the next game we play. Tonight, we moved the ball well offensively, play aggressive defense and kept our composure each time Vanderbilt made a run."

The Lady Bulldogs started strong, scoring the game's first six points. Mary Kathryn Govero's second 3-point basket of the first half gave MSU a 26-16 advantage with 6:01 left before halftime.

Thanks to strong defense, the Lady Bulldogs maintained that push, leading 33-26 at the intermission.

An Alexis Rack 3-point basket gave MSU its largest lead of the evening, at 38-26 with 19:16 remaining. From there, Vanderbilt stormed back. A 16-3 run by the Commodores gave Vanderbilt its only lead of the game. A 3-point basket by Lauren Lueders gave VU a 42-41 lead with 9:41 remaining.

The teams were then nip and tuck the rest of the way.

The Lady Bulldogs managed to open up some breathing room with back-to-back defensive stops and six straight free throws from Tate, Rack and Robin Porter. Porter's back-to-back free shots actually gave MSU a 58-51 advantage with 1:51 remaining.

The Commodores then made their last stand. An old-fashioned 3-point play by Jence Rhoads, followed by a steal and two made free throws from Jennifer Risper cut the lead to 58-56.

Porter answered with a jumper on MSU's offensive end. Six made free throws in the final 34 seconds closed out the win.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 22 of 52 shots from the field (42.3 percent), 4 of 16 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 18 of 22 shots from the foul line (81.8 percent). The Commodores hit 20 of 46 shots from the field (43.5 percent), 6 of 20 shots from 3-point range (30.0 percent) and 15 of 19 shots from the foul line (78.9 percent).

The teams finished even at 31 rebounds apiece. The Lady Bulldogs had 17 assists and 20 turnovers, while the Commodores had 15 assists and a season-high 27 turnovers.

Rack paced the Lady Bulldogs with her 14 points. Also in double figures were Armelie Lumanu with 12 points and Robin Porter with 11 points. Tate had a team-high eight rebounds, while Rack had a team-high six assists.

Christina Wirth paced Vanderbilt with 16 points, while Merideth Marsh added 13 points. Jennifer Risper had a team-high eight rebounds for the Commodores.

Both teams return to action Sunday. MSU hosts LSU at 2 p.m., while Vanderbilt travels to Kentucky for an 11 a.m. CT start.

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