Mississippi State - Alexis Rack, who was due a big game, had exactly that, scoring 34 points, including making seven of ten shots from three-point range. Rack simply put the team on her back in the second half, scoring 24 points in that half.
Georgia - The Georgia frontcourt of Porsha Phillips and Angel Robinson combined for 23 points and 18 rebounds. They did a good job but it just wasn't enough to offset Rack's game or stop the other Lady Bulldogs from getting in the lanes and creating for their teammates.
"When you look at experience on the basketball team, you look at seniors," said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis. "I have told you this before though. (Rack) was the only one on the floor who has been through it for four years. Her wanting the basketball down the stretch to make a play was huge. As we communicate, the team understands how we are trying to get better as a basketball team."
The Stats Don't Lie:
Ok, maybe for this game some of the stats do lie. Georgia outscored Mississippi State in many areas including points in the paint where they outscored them 26-18. Georgia scored 14 points off turnovers to Mississippi States six points while also outscoring Mississippi State 18 to 11 in second chance points. Georgia bench also outscored Mississippi State's 12 to 2 as Mississippi State continues to struggle to find production off the bench. Where the stats start to tell the truth is the shooting percentages of both teams. Mississippi State shot 43.1 percent for the game including 55.6 percent in the first half while Georgia only shot 36.4 percent. Another area that ultimately doomed Georgia was their lack of ability to make free throws, connecting on 56 percent of free throws while Mississippi State connected on 79.3 percent of theirs. The stats simply showed that Mississippi State made shots and Georgia didn't.
This is one game where my prediction was dead wrong as this game showed what happens when a highly rated team doesn't bring it against a team that has the ability to beat them. The main thing Mississippi State did well was establish the tempo of the game from the beginning. That took Georgia out of their comfort zone, which is grinding out victories. Mississippi State forced them to rely on shooting, which led them to shoot a poor shooting percentage.
"Mississippi State got us in transition and blew down the floor," said Georgia head coach Andy Landers. "They got the ball in the 20 foot area before we got back and got turned around, so consequently they're attacking the rim on us. We left or didn't get Rack checked up twice in a row and she attacked six more on it, so the first thing you know a close game becomes us down by ten."
Georgia did not cause as many problems with their size as I anticipated, although they blocked five shots as a team. But Mississippi State's Chanel Mokango, who was a force throughout the game, had five by herself.
"This was a (great) defensive effort by the whole team," said Mokango. "We knew how good this team was and we came out ready. Coach told me a lot this week that quick feet were important and I felt like I was moving very well tonight. I made sure to assist our guards and contest shots when their players drove the lane."
Mississippi State getting Georgia out of their comfort zone allowed them to dominate the game except for a late run by Georgia to end the game.
"It was a desperate effort," said Landers. "At that point, when we did that, State was relaxed a little bit. We jumped them at a point and time where they weren't prepared for it. They didn't play real well at that point, but they are up 14 so they can afford not to play real well. We did some good things, but Mississippi State didn't do what they wanted either."
Mississippi State, quite frankly, took it to Georgia and I honestly don't think they were ready for it. And that, along with Alexis Rack sensational performance, led Mississippi State to the upset victory.
"I am very, very proud of this team win," said Fanning-Otis. "I was very, very proud of the first half. I think we made things happen. We were able to change up defenses. And everybody on our team was able to get in the lineup. Everybody was really working and putting us in a great position. I did not see halftime stats, so I didn't see the assist-to-turnover ratio. Down the stretch I think we turned that around. I thought it was sloppy for a while. Georgia is a very athletic and a very good team, so you have to block out and communicate. I thought we made mistakes down the stretch, but we found a way to get a huge win. We were able to maintain composure and it turned out to be a great win for us."
The victory makes two straight wins versus top 25 opponents with four now on the season for the MSU Lady Bulldogs.
"The last game gave us very high confidence which allowed us to work really well together," said Rack. "Everyone on the team stepped up and played their part. Overall we played extremely well and we hope to get even better after this win."
This loss means that the number nine ranked Georgia has lost three of their last eight and seem to be experiencing the effects of SEC play.
"Well we've played two good teams on the road; we didn't play hard at Vanderbilt, so we were asking for that one," said Landers. "We didn't play well enough tonight. We did play well at our place but gave up an eight point lead and a last second shot."
The Lady Bulldogs could receive a boost soon as Tysheka Grimes' once uncertain status has now been upgraded and it appears she may see the court soon.
Player of the Game:
Alexis Rack easily deserves the player of the game award after scoring 34 points (24 of them coming in the second half). She also supplied seven rebounds on the night while dishing out three assists. Rack definitely put the team on her back, showing why she is the second leading scorers in SEC and one of best in Mississippi State history.
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