Mississippi State - Alexis Rack continued to struggle from the field only shooting 3-15 from the field and scoring 10 points. But she managed to help in other areas dishing out nine assist and grabbing five boards. She also helped out defensively with four steals.
"Great players and great shooters keep taking great shots," said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis. "Also, they find a way to make their team better, so you have to continue to work hard. As we watched film from our last basketball game, I talked to her about shot selection. When you play a great defensive team you have about a second to make a decision. You are either going to lay it up, take the jump shot or pass it off to your teammates. We are still not connected there like we need to be. We have to open it up. As far as Alexis (Rack) goes, she is being a leader and is making the team better in every way."
Alabama - Tierney Jenkins had a solid night for the Lady Crimson Tide with 11 points and five rebounds on the night. The Lady Crimson Tide needed a career day for them have a chance in this game.
The Stats Don't Lie:
The stats definitely didn't lie for this game because Mississippi State dominated in every category. The first stat I would like to focus on is rebounds as the Lady Bulldogs dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Lady Crimson Tide 55-44.
"Rebounding is just a key," said Fanning-Otis. "You block out and get extra shots. It is a point of emphasis for us. You have to make those things happen, and we did that tonight."
Rima Kolanda with 12 rebounds and Armelie Lumanu, with 11 rebounds, were the main contributors to a big night on the boards. Another area where Lady Bulldogs dominated was points off turnovers, outscoring the Lady Crimson Tide 20-10 after forcing them to turn the ball over 18 times. Neither team shot well from the field but Mississippi State won this battle, connecting on 38.4 percent from the field while Alabama shot 28.4 percent from the field.
"This is not the first game we've had like this," said Alabama head coach Wendell Hudson. "You've just got to keep playing. I don't think the team quit at all and we played awful hard the entire time. Defense might win a lot of other sports but in basketball you've got to be able to score. When you do make some of those easy baskets, it puts a little pressure on the other team and that's something we aren't doing right now. I mean we are just going to go practice hard and get to work."
The only saving grace for Alabama in a statistical sense is that they tight Mississippi in bench points with 16 a piece.
There is no point in breaking down what was the turning point in this game or why Mississippi State won. The game was over in the first couple of possessions as the Lady Bulldogs established control at the start of the game and never relinquished it. There isn't much to be excited about since the team didn't perform to the level that they were capable of. They didn't bring the intensity expected of a team looking to make the tournament. The best thing the Lady Bulldogs can take from this is that Coach Fanning-Otis was able to play her bench, with three players, Diamber Johnson, Bethany Washington, Ashley Jones, all logging ten-plus minutes. Those players playing extended minutes may become valuable in the middle of the conference schedule as Tysheka Grimes may be further away from playing than originally prognosticated.
"This will allow for another weapon on the court," said Govero. "Her injury has allowed other players to get good experience and more playing time. We now know when Tysheka returns, we will have good confidence, experience and great weapons off the bench."
The Lady Bulldogs will have to play a higher level to receive a NCAA tournament berth, but with all that being said still came away with the victory and that's always a plus.
"It was a great team win for us," said Fanning-Otis. "I think we got out to a quick lead and got a little complacent there for a few minutes as far as the kind of shots we were taking. I know they (Alabama) shot a poor percentage in the first half, but a lot of those were uncontested shots. You have to make sure you contest every shot and box out the whole way. I thought Armelie (Lumanu) ran the floor very well tonight. I do not know how many touches she had but she played a great game tonight. I thought in the second half we did a better job of getting the ball in the paint and getting to the free-throw line. If you continue to take great shots then they will come. I was very proud of Rima (Kalonda). She ended up with 12 rebounds and really hit the boards. There were a lot people who made this win happen and it was a great team win for us."
Player of the Game:
There were a couple of candidates for the Player of the game but Mary Kathryn Govero deserves the award for this game as she had a career day with 22 points, a career high, 7 boards, and 3 steals.
"If you are taking contested shots, then find a way to get a better one," said Fanning-Otis. "That is something every player has to learn and Mary Kathryn is doing that. We have some very good shooters and they have to be ready for that. Every one of our players has to step up and get some confidence" said Fanning-Otis.
Two other players deserve honorable mention for this game, Armelie Lumanu and Rima Kalonda . Lumanu posted her 4th double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Kalonda, who has been playing well of late, scored eight points and grabbed 12 boards.
"Rima stepped up tonight," said Alexis Rack. "She was making shots and it seemed like every time the ball came off the rim she was there to grab the rebound. I was proud of her aggressiveness and we hope to see this carry over through the rest of the season."
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