Thomas and Lawson went shot-for-shot Saturday, finishing with 34 and 32 respectively, the sixth and eighth highest totals in tourney history.
Lawson made 6-of-9 from 3-point range, second most in made in tourney history, and finished the game 12-of-22 from the field. Thomas once again did it all for the Bulldogs finishing 11-for-20, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 10-of-10 from the line.
MSU blitzed Tennessee from the tip, building their lead out to nine before the Lady Volunteers mounted a comeback. The Lady Volunteers fought back and took the lead 28-26 with 6:38 left in the first half. Doceide Warren hit a buzzer beater from just over 50 feet to give the Bulldogs the nine-point lead going into the locker room at 42-33 and close out a 16-5 MSU run.
The Lady Volunteers answered in the second half with a 13-4 run to pull to 46-46 with 16:42 remaining. Tennessee took their largest lead of six points with 3:25 left in the game, before the Bulldogs climbed back and the fireworks started.
"You know the defense is going to be tough," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning said of the first five minutes of the final period. "Just a couple of possessions, but we regained that, and they stayed in the game. We just have to mature from that and don't make those same mistakes."
Tennessee started their comeback, during the first half, when the Bulldogs began to struggle after defensive stopper Blessing Chekwa had to be helped off the floor clutching her knee. Chekwa returned to the Bulldog bench after the half, but was limited to a cheering role because of the straight leg brace on her right leg.
Mississippi State did find some relief from the loss with the play of junior guard Seneca Anderson. Anderson finished with six points and three rebounds, but her biggest contributions were the game-high four steals.
"I have always been known for my defense, even when I was in high school," Anderson said. "I know my role is to play defense, so that I what I go out and do."
Tan White continued her good play down the stretch of the season, and almost made Bulldog history. White gave the Bulldogs a 75-74 lead with 59 seconds remaining on a 14-foot jump shot, but Tennessee proved to be too much. White finished with 21 points, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range.
Tennessee advances to take on LSU in the championship today at 3 p.m., while MSU has to take the week off to prepare for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
"There are really no losers in a game like this, when both teams play like they did and compete and leave everything on the floor," Fanning said. "We have to gain something from this game, and go out and get ready for the next game."
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 email@example.com.