Lady Bulldogs Pick Up Win Despite Scare

The University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks almost pulled off the impossible. Trailing by 10 points with just 60 seconds remaining, USC cut into the Mississippi State lead getting as close as two during the final minute. But, with 1.1 seconds left in the game, MSU's LaToya Thomas iced the game with two consecutive free throws to give the Bulldogs a 79-75 victory.

"We never lost hope that we could win," South Carolina Guard Cristina Ciocan said following the game.

"We fought hard to the end, but I thought that we should have started the fight earlier."

Despite a 1-for-6 effort from the reigning SEC Player of the Year Thomas during the first half, the Bulldogs took a 35-34 lead into the break. Tan White gave MSU it's largest lead of the half, 35-32, with an explosive block of a Kelly Morrone 3-point attempt followed by an easy breakaway lay-up.

"All night we had been talking about how they go throw screens to get their shots, and they had been doing a good job of that during the first half," White said when asked about the block after the game. "I got picked and I knew she was going to shoot the three. When I looked up she was there, and I was already on my way.

"I mean I knew that I had a good jump, and she was late shooting. She is a couple of inches shorter than me, so I knew I had a chance. I just went up and blocked it and made the lay-up."

The Bulldogs opened the second half the way they finished the first. MSU opened with a 19-4 run over the first 6:05 of the second half to build their largest lead of the game at 54-38.

The Bulldogs used total domination of the boards, including 24 second-chance points, to pull out the victory. MSU finished the game with their most rebounds of the season and a 56-29 advantage on the glass. MSU pulled down 33 boards, 15 offensive, during the first half, and finished with 56 rebounds, 25 offensive.

"If you look quickly at the stats, rebounding and defense played a big factor in this game," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning said. "It wasn't pretty, but we did it. Hopefully with this game we will realize the importance of free throws down the stretch."

White and Doceide Warren led the Bulldogs with 20 points apiece. Warren finished the game with a career high in points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range. Thomas and Blessing Chekwa posted the only double-doubles of the game. Thomas finished with 18 points and 15 boards, while Chekwa chipped in 14 points and 10 rebounds.

With 7:23 left in the first half, Thomas became the SEC all-time free throws made leader on her second attempt of the night. She finished the night 10-of-14 from the stripe giving her 691 made free throws.

The Gamecocks also placed four players in double figures scoring with Jocelyn Penn leading the way with 20. Morrone finished with 18 points, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Cristina Ciocan scored 13 in the second half to finish with 16, and Petra Ujhelyi added 13.

MSU will face the SEC regular season champion Lady Volunteers tonight at 6 p.m. Tennessee defeated the University of Auburn 66-51. The game can be seen on SEC-TV.

Mississippi State vs. South Carolina Game Notes

  • Mississippi State extended its winning streak to seven games, the longest of the season.
  • MSU is now 5-5 this season versus Top 25 teams.
  • MSU is now 10-23 in SEC Tournament competition.
  • This was the first meeting between MSU and USC in the SEC Tournament.
  • MSU pulled down a season-high 56 rebounds. The Lady Bulldogs out-rebounded USC 56-29. State out-scored the Gamecocks 24-9 on second chance points.
  • MSU snapped a three-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.
  • State advances to the semifinals for just the second time in school history. The Lady Bulldogs reached the semifinals during the 2000 tournament when they defeated Georgia, 72-71, to advance to the finals, falling to Tennessee, 70-67.
  • LaToya Thomas became the SEC's all-time career free throw shooter with her first free throw of the night. She now has 691 career free throws. Wendy Scholtens of Vanderbilt (1998-'91) previously held the top spot with 681 free throws.
  • Thomas recorded her 46th career double-double tonight. She has scored in double figures in every game of her career (122). She tied a season-high with 15 rebounds.
  • Tan White moved into 12th place on MSU's all-time scoring chart with 1,095 career points. White moved into fourth place on MSU's all-time steals list with 190 career steals.
  • Doceide Warren poured in a career-high 20 points.
  • Blessing Chekwa recorded her first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
  • MSU had four players score in double digits tonight (Chekwa -14, White -20, Thomas-18, Warren -20). The last time the Lady Bulldogs achieved this feat was against Kentucky.
  • Chekwa and Thomas scored double-doubles. The last time this happened was versus New Orleans.

    Grant Alford is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. He is a student at Mississippi State University. You can contact him by email at

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