Ole Miss (10-13, 4-6) stumbled to a 73-65 victory over its in-state rival, but the eight-point advantage left just as many questions as answers thanks to a 28-point first half lead evaporating down into a single possession with less than four minutes remaining.
"Our players don't give themselves permission to win," Ladner said. "We were the pressure team in the first half, and then they turned around and put a little (pressure) on us. We didn't handle it very well, but we found a way to hold on."
Mississippi State (15-10, 3-7) trailed by 27 at the break, but the Lady Bulldogs kept their composure and methodically chopped the deficit down during the course of the second half. Tysheka Grimes led MSU with 15 points and pulled her team within three on a free throw at the 3:37 mark.
However, that was as close as the visitors would bring the score, as Ole Miss converted lay-ups on consecutive trips and pushed the lead back to a comfortable cushion of seven points. Grimes connected on a 3-pointer to fight back, but four straight makes at the charity stripe sealed it for the Rebels.
"We had a chance to win, but my concern is our effort," Fanning said. "You have to prepare to win, and we didn't do that."
Four Ole Miss scorers achieved double figures led by the inside-outside combination of Shawn Goff (16) and Elizabeth Robertson (14). Goff maneuvered throughout the paint and controlled the boards with nine rebounds, while Robertson hit four shots from outside the arc, including the first to overtake State's only lead at 4-3 and another to break the final tie when the score was even at seven.
Bianca Thomas and Shantell Black also posted notable performances with 11 and 10.
The Rebels blistered the nets at a 56 percent clip during the opening half but saw that number fall to 29 percent following intermission. The Lady Bulldogs shot 33 percent and 34 percent in each respective half.
Grimes 15 and Marneshia Richards with 13 points carried the bulk of the MSU offense, especially after leading scorer Alexis Rack was ejected following two technical fouls in the first 15 minutes of play. In all, five technicals were issued, three of which were against State. Carla Bartee and Danetra Forrest were each charged for the Rebels.
"I have never seen anything like that," Ladner said. "I think they got technical happy trying to keep the game from getting out of hand."
Ole Miss has struggled at the foul line all season but the Rebels were able to convert 70 percent to thwart the late MSU rally. Meanwhile, it was the Lady Bulldogs who used the free throw line to get back in the game, converting 15 of 19 opportunities in the second half.
"A win is what I take from this," Ladner said. "There are still growing pains, but you take them when you can get them. It definitely wasn't pretty."
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