Lady 'Dogs Rout Devilettes in Noon Showdown

The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs, inching closer to conference play, could not afford any slip-ups at this point in the season. And they avoided one with a 88-53 victory over the Mississippi Valley State Devilettes in front of a loud crowd of 1,356 fans, including approximately 1,000 of whom were from local elementary schools.

Tysheka Grimes led the way for the Lady Bulldogs with one of her best games of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.

"I try to play my role the best I can," said Grimes. "If it's a game where Alexis is hitting then I know my role is to go down there and rebound. Today my rebounding was better than it has been the last few games and I have to keep that up."

Three other Lady Bulldogs scored in double figures, including Alexis Rack with 24, Chanel Mokango with 18, and Armelie Lumanu contributed 12.

The lone bright spot for the Devilettes was Colby Stallings who had 19 points, including four three-pointers.

The game started slow with both teams only scoring nine points through the first five minutes. Five of those nine points were rung up by the Devilettes. But the pace picked up for the Lady Bulldogs when Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis reinserted Chanel Mokango, playing her alongside Rima Kalonda, something that Coach Fanning-Otis felt was important to do.

"We need to play Mokango and Kalonda sometimes together right now," said Fanning-Otis, of the twosome who grew up in the Congo. "The last two games we have had smaller players so those two together have not been as good a match-up. But we were not blocking out in our man like we needed to. But those two can play together and they will play together."

And the twosome paid immediate dividends because the Lady Bulldogs managed to go on a 17-2 run, which was started by a Mokango fade away jumper and capped by a layup from the third Lady Bulldogs player from the Congo, Armelie Lumanu. Interestingly, the girls from the Congo were involved in every score in the 17-2 run, scoring eight points and earning an assist on the other scores.

The Lady Bulldogs kept the pace up for the rest of the half, resulting in a 44-20 halftime lead.

The 'Dogs turned up the pressure in the second half, stealing the ball five times in the first eight and a half minutes of the half, which allowed them to go on a 21-11 run and expand their 24-point halftime lead to a score of 65-31.

The Lady Devilettes could get no closer than 28 the rest of the second half.

But despite the score, the win did not feel like a rout to the Lady Bulldogs.

"I'd have to say fairly close tonight just wasn't a good night; we kind of played down to the level of our competition, which is never good when you're playing somebody like that," said Grimes. "We were sluggish and we weren't playing up to our potential."

The Lady Bulldogs did some things well, forcing 27 turnovers, the tenth time they have forced 20 or more turnovers in a game this season. They also shot the ball well, connecting on 50.8 percent of their shots, including 38.9 percent from three-point range. But on the downside, State struggled at the free-throw line.

"We shot 51 percent from the field (but only) 50 percent from the free-throw line; there's nothing in the gym that should be distracting you from a free throw," said Fanning-Otis. " It just goes back to your expectations and focus. We are nowhere near where we need to be to win a conference championship or (even) compete for a conference championships. If we don't work harder on a consistent basis then it won't happen, but if we do then it might happen."

The Lady Bulldogs are still searching for some scoring off the bench after adding Chanel Mokango to the starting lineup.

"We have thought about changing our lineup some," said Fanning-Otis. "With Chanel, when she came off the bench it seemed like a little bit more of a punch, but for right now we are sticking with this (lineup)."

The victory against the Devilettes is still one that can be put in the win column even though there were some mistakes made.

"What I'm concerned about is are we being the best team we can possibly be," said Fanning-Otis. "I thought that we were sloppy with the basketball and you see that (we) are forcing numerous turnovers but we are not hitting free throws. They had nine offensive rebounds at the half and that shows that we are not blocking out enough. That being said, to finish with a win while playing a lot of combinations and this being our third game in the last five days, is good. It's something where mentally you have to focus; and that's going to help us become a more mature team."

The Lady Bulldogs are on the road for their next game, traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio to face 8th ranked Xavier. The game is set for a 1 pm. Sunday tip-off and can be heard on Maroon to the Max or 107.9 French Camp on the radio.

"We are (about to face) one of the best teams that we have played all year, a team that has been ranked in the top 10 this season," said Fanning-Otis. "They have everybody back, they are an experienced team and they have two of the best post players we will play against all year long."


Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at moot2005@yahoo.com


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