Lady Bulldogs Defeat Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - With Mississippi State's shooting as cold as the outside weather Sunday afternoon, the Lady Bulldogs turned to defense and rebounding to save the day. A 19-0 run midway through the second half lifted MSU past Alabama 67-49 in the final Southeastern Conference regular season basketball game of the season played at UA's Coleman Coliseum.

The victory clinched the sixth seed for MSU in this week's SEC Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs will face the South Carolina Gamecocks in a 9 p.m. CT first-round game Thursday night at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Arkansas. All four first-round tournament games will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net South.

MSU closes the regular season at 21-8 overall and 8-6 in conference play. The Lady Bulldogs could finish tied for fifth in the conference standings if Vanderbilt defeats Tennessee tonight. Either in that two-way tie or in sole possession of sixth place, the MSU ladies will be seeded sixth in the tournament. Alabama, which will be the 12th seed, finishes 13-16 overall and 1-13 in league play.

The 21 wins already mark the third most in school history. This season's squad became the first MSU women's basketball team since 2002-03 to win 20 or more games. That squad tied a school record with 24 victories. This season also marks the first winning record in league play since the 02-03 squad finished 10-4 against conference foes.

The Lady Bulldogs have now won three straight in the series with the Lady Tide, including back-to-back wins in the Coleman Coliseum.

Things started off slowly for MSU Sunday afternoon. The Lady Bulldogs missed their first eight shots from the field and quickly trailed 10-0. MSU then pieced together a 13-3 run to tie the game 13-13. A 6-0 run by the Lady Tide opened up a 21-15 advantage for the hosts. The Lady Tide kept the slight lead, holding a 30-26 advantage at halftime.

"We challenged them at the half," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning said. "We knew coming in Alabama was going to play with everything they have. They can shoot the basketball. In this game, they made some early shots and we didn't. That allowed them to play with more confidence."

In the opening half, the Lady Bulldogs shot 29 percent from the floor and failed to establish any offensive rhythm. The final half then resembled MSU's 58-41 win over South Carolina Thursday night at home. In that contest, the Lady Bulldogs dominated the final 20 minutes, extending a one-point halftime lead into an easy victory.

The Lady Bulldogs trailed 41-35 with 14:25 remaining in Sunday's game. MSU then reeled off the 19-0 run. Alabama did not score again until there was 5:30 remaining. The Lady Tide actually went 11:06 without a field goal.

Meanwhile, the 3-point shots finally started falling. Mary Kathryn Govero and Alexis Rack each hit four 3-point baskets in the contest. Govero hit all four of hers in the final half, with a pair of them coming during what eventually became a game-deciding 24-2 run.

"In the second half, our energy level really picked up," Fanning said. "Our defense was better and we rebounded much better. We knocked down some shots and that changed the outlook of the game. I am awfully proud of our second-half effort and now we look forward to the tournament."

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 26 of 72 shots from the field (36.1 percent), 10 of 29 shots from 3-point range (34.5 percent) and 5 of 8 shots from the foul line (62.5 percent). The Lady Tide hit 16 of 55 shots from the field (29.1 percent), 5 of 22 shots from 3-point range (22.7 percent) and 12 of 19 shots from the foul line (63.2 percent).

MSU held a 56-37 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 13 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Lady Tide had 12 assists and 14 turnovers. The 56 rebounds marked a new season high.

Alexis Rack led MSU with 19 points, while Mary Kathryn Govero added 14 points. Donnisha Tate had a team-high eight rebounds, while Chanel Mokango and Armelie Lumanu each had seven rebounds. Erika Russell led UA with 12 points. Tierney Jenkins and Dedrea Magee each had nine rebounds for the Lady Tide.

The MSU-South Carolina winner will meet third-seeded LSU in SEC Tournament quarterfinal play at 9 p.m. CT Friday.


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