Star Watch: Mississippi State - Chanel Mokango did not have the expected impact against the smaller team, scoring just three points while pulling down seven rebounds. Mokango did manage to block four shots, though. Her night went much like the night of her fellow Lady Bulldogs, which was poorly.
Florida - Jennifer George seemed to have lost out on playing time to the returning Jennifer Mossor. George did not see the extended minutes that I expected, only logging eight minutes. She only managed three points, a steal and a block shot.
The Stats Don't Lie:
The biggest stat of the night was both teams' field goal percentages with Mississippi State shooting 32.8 percent on the night while Florida shot 34.5 percent. Other than that stat, the two teams were close in few areas. As an example, Florida had 26 points in the paint while Mississippi State had 18. Florida had 14 points off turnovers while Mississippi State had eight points. Mississippi State had nine 2nd chance points while Florida had eight. Neither team managed any fast break points, exemplifying the slow pace both teams played. Both teams also did a poor job of taking care of the basketball with Florida turning the ball over 21 times while Mississippi State turned it over 18 times.
"You know you have to guard every possession," said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis. "We have seen them enough on film to know what they are going to do. If you talk and play hard together, then you get through those things. If you get beat on something, don't get beat on that same thing again. We have to figure out how not to have 18 turnovers and how to not miss so many layups. Also, you can't go 6-of-14 from the free-throw line. Those are negatives that we are doing to ourselves."
The more alarming stat is that both teams only managed 20 assist between them which translate close to a 1-2 assist-to-turnover margin. There were two other stats that separated the two teams. The first was bench points - Florida scored 14 and Mississippi State scored just eight. The Lady Bulldogs continue struggling to generate points off the bench. Mississippi State also came up short in rebounding, getting out-rebounded 46- to 35. This is one game where the stats told the story of the game which was sloppy and ugly.
This is a game I honestly thought the Lady Bulldogs would win handily, but this game was a perfectly example of games not being played on paper but on the court. And you still have to go out and take care of the ball, shoot well, and know how to win ugly.
"A glaring thing to me is just taking care of the basketball," said Fanning-Otis. "We forced a lot of turnovers that we just did not take advantage of, and then we committed a lot of turnovers. You better be in front of the four categories we talk about, and we are not there. We held them to under 40 percent, but again ours was lower. You know their strengths and weaknesses and we just did not get it done as a team. I think our effort and focus were good. I felt good about those things. I thought we were ahead in the second half but we just couldn't build on that. Give Florida credit. They play really hard, and they don't lose focus when the other team makes a run. I thought they just did the little things right. We just need to regroup and find out how to be a better basketball team."
Coach Fanning-Otis's mood in the post-game press conference describes this game to a tee; disappointing. The Lady Bulldogs came out slow, just as they have the last few games.
"We have to find a way to bring what we do in the second half for the entire game" said Mary-Kathryn Govero.
They managed to get back in the game and take a lead but the overall sloppy play caught up with the Lady Bulldogs. The game reminded me a bit of the Mississippi State men's game Saturday as the Lady Gators were an inferior team talent-wise but, unlike the Georgia Bulldogs, managed to stay in the game and ultimately win.
"We strive for ugliness," said Florida head coach Amanda Butler. "It has taken us to this point in the season to figure out how we have to play and how we have to try to make other teams play for us to be successful and it has to be ugly. It has to be a game that's on the floor, it can't be a game that's up around the rim, or be pretty or finesse. Highlight reel, it's the stuff where you go oh gosh, you know, but that's how we're good. We are trying our best to impose that style which is very difficult when you are going up against the type of talent that a team like Mississippi State has. But we are definitely striving for ugliness every night."
Player of the Game:
I normally would give the player of the game honor to a player on the winning team but I'm giving it to Armelie Lumanu who got her third double-double of the season (10 points, 14 rebounds) after sliding over to the small forward position with Diamber Johnson inserted into the starting line-up. Although Lumanu turned the ball over seven times, she had five steals and played her heart out throughout the game. That earned her my player of the game award.
Jeremiah Short is a columnist who covers various Mississippi State sports for GenesPage.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org