The Lady Bulldogs held the lead early in the game as Porter, Richard and Grimes each scored a field goal giving MSU 6-0 lead. As the Lady Bulldogs found out, the Lions did not want to be tamed and did a lot of roaring for most of the game.
Brooke Necaise nailed a three-point field goal off a Kristy Carlin assist five and half minutes into the game to get SELU on the board. A minute and a half later Alejandra Iglesias found Jameica Gross open under the basket for a easy lay-up to give the visitors a 9-8 lead.
Porter put the Lady Bulldogs back on top momentarily with a jump shot at the 11:01 mark giving State a short-lived 10-9 advantage.
On the ensuing possession, Iglesias dished another assist, this time to Tina Wilson who canned a trey giving the advantage back to the Lions.
Lauren Roberts, who finished the night with seven points, nailed a trey to wrestle the lead away from the Lions at the 6:42 mark. MSU held a slim 17-16 advantage.
Over the next four minutes, SELU went on a 13-2 run. With 2:27 left in the first half, SELU had their largest lead of the game 29-19.
To the credit of MSU, they cut the deficit to three points when Miayorka Johnson got open for a jump shot off a Bethany Washington assist. But Brenita Williams hit a lay-up at the half time buzzer to give SELU their 33-28 advantage.
"We have to play through those tough times," Fanning said. "We have to penetrate and we have to see each other. We didn't cut with aggressiveness. We have to see on the backside. We played a team that has been together a long time. They have six seniors on their team and a junior in their starting lineup. We let them do too much stuff one-on-one. We kept emphasizing being patient, take good shots, work hard and take the ball at them."
In the second half MSU kept up the pressure they exerted at the end of the first half, but started getting the ball into Jackson's hands. Within the first minute, she collected an offensive rebound and then put the shot on the glass and drew a foul. Converting the free throw got MSU to within two points. At the 16:45 mark, Jackson again got open for a lay-up to give the Lady Bulldogs a 37-36 lead.
State maintained the lead until the 11:20 mark when Gross' jumper put SELU back on top 43-42. At the 5:41 mark Jazmin Cain's jumper gave SELU a 56-55 lead. In the intervening five plus minutes, there were eight lead changes and five ties. But that would be the last lead for the Lions on the night. State's depth had taken a toll. However, it was this stretch of the game, rather than the final score, the reflected the fierceness of MSU's competition.
The Lady Bulldogs dominated the final five and half minutes at one point pushing the lead to as many nine points, when SELU had to foul.
"When you can make mistakes and not play as well as you are capable of playing, it's a positive," Fanning said. "The players know this. They didn't put their heads down when they got disgusted. I'm happy with the win but this is not as good as we can play basketball. We have to be smarter and more confident. We have to believe in ourselves. We have to communicate better. You can't be soft and win ball games. We have to encourage and teach and be patient."
Porter led the Lady Bulldogs collecting 11 rebounds, while Richard lead the team with four steals. The MSU bench added 21 points to 48 points from the starting quintet. In addition to Johnson, Washington and Heather Hollis came off the bench to score six points apiece, while Channa Campbell added a field goal. Alexis Rack, Amy Reeder and Katherine Young did not score.
Carlin led all scorers with a 15-point effort in a losing cause. Williams added 13 while Cain had a game-high of 13 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocked shots to go along with her 6 points.
The Lady Bulldogs return to action Monday hosting Belmont at 7:00 p.m.
"We'll meet tomorrow and watch the film from this game," Fanning said. "We're probably not going to break down the film because we are so young I want them to see the whole game so we can learn from it. We're going to rest their legs tomorrow (Saturday) but we'll also do some lifting. On Sunday we'll have a regular practice and then come back on Monday because Belmont is a team that will come after us. They are a very good team."
Andy Kalinowski, known on the internet as Andy K, covers the Mississippi State women's basketball team for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org>.