March 6, 2014 9:57:24 PM
From Special, Wire Reports
DULUTH, Ga. - Mississippi State rallied from a 15-point deficit, grabbed a lead but could not hang on Thursday at the Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament.
Florida rallied in the closing minutes to end MSU's run in the tournament with a 71-67 win in a second-round contest played at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
"I'd like to have the first half back," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "I think our kids would. I'm really proud of how we came out of the locker room. We came out, competed and took a lead. I loved our resilience, which is what this team has been about all year. Our second half was very, very good. We showed a lot of toughness, resilience and a competitive spirit."
MSU (19-13) trailed by as many as 15 points in the final minute of the opening half. The Bulldogs closed within 42-29 at the intermission and turned in a strong defensive effort to get back in the contest in the final 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs closed within seven points at 48-41 on a Kendra Grant 3-point basket with 13:58 left. A steal and layup by Katia May sparked another mini-rally. Dominique Dillingham put back a Savannah Carter miss, and moments later Carter got a steal and a jumper to cut the lead to four.
Dillingham added a trey from the corner that brought the Bulldogs within three points.
MSU finally took its first lead of the second half on a 3-point basket by Jerica James at 56-55 with 7:51 left. Florida quickly answered with the game's next seven points though, as MSU missed eight of its next nine shots from the floor after grabbing the lead.
Still, the Bulldogs kept battling. A 3-pointer by Grant brought the Bulldogs within two with 50 seconds left, but the Gators hit four free throws from there to close out the win.
"The first half was a bad half for us," Grant said. "Even though we outscored them in the second half, we were in too deep. We tried what we could to get it back, but we couldn't get over the hump."
In the opening half, Florida quickly sprinted to an 11-4 advantage. MSU established an inside presence with strong post play from Martha Alwal and stormed back for a 14-13 lead. Early foul trouble for both Alwal and Breanna Richardson stalled the Bulldogs and the Gators took advantage.
A 10-0 run by Florida ran the advantage to 23-14. Florida held a similar lead for the remainder of the half before MSU's spirited rally in the second half.
"You have to give Florida credit," Schaefer said. "When we took the lead, they called timeout and answered with back-to-back baskets."
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 24 of 59 shots from the field (40.7 percent), 7 of 26 shots from 3-point range (26.9 percent) and 12of 16 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent). The Gators hit 27 of 49 shots from the field (55.1 percent), 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 12 of 20 shots from the foul line (60.0 percent).
MSU held a 32-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Gators had 14 assists and 17 turnovers.
Grant paced MSU with 14 points, while May added 12 points and Carter added 10 points.
Florida (19-11) placed four players in double figures. Jaterra Bonds led the Gators with 18 points, while Kayla Lewis added 17 points, Cassie Peoples added 13 points and Antoinette Bannister added 10 points.
MSU will now await word for potential postseason play on March 17. The opening round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament will be played at on-campus locations March 19 through 21.
Auburn 70, Ole Miss 54: Tra'Cee Tanner scored 17 points, older sister Tyrese Tanner had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Auburn pulled away late to beat Ole Miss.
Auburn (17-13) led only 54-52 midway through the second half before an 8-0 run stretched the lead to 10 points.
Valencia McFarland led Ole Miss (12-20) with 23 points, including 20 in the first half. No other player scored in double figures for the Rebels, who beat Auburn 73-71 in overtime on Sunday to close the regular season.
Tra'Cee Tanner, who usually plays a complementary role to her older sister, came within two points of her career high.
Auburn will play No. 3 seed Texas A&M in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
LSU 78, Alabama 65: the Alabama women's basketball team saw its season end with a 14-16 record after a second-round loss in the tournament.
Alabama senior Shafontaye Myers led all scorers with 27 points, including the first 14 for the Tide. She was joined in double figures by junior Daisha Simmons with 18. Freshman Ashley Williams collected a team-high 10 rebounds. LSU was led by its trio of seniors as Shanece McKinney, Theresa Plaisance and Jeanne Kenney combined for 46 points and 24 rebounds.
Alabama led early on, thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Myers, but LSU would go on to take its first lead at the 13:29 mark, 8-6. On the Tide's next possession Myers would deliver again, hitting her third shot in a row from downtown. Alabama remained in front until the 9:47 mark when a jumper by freshman Raigyne Moncrief put the Tigers in front 16-14. LSU would lead by as many as eight in the half and took a 34-27 lead at the half.
The Tigers and Tide traded baskets over the first few possessions of the second half before a 13-2 run over a five-minute period put LSU in front, 58-38. Alabama made a late run to cut its biggest deficit of 25 down to 10 but would not come any closer.
For the game, Alabama shot 35.4 percent (23-65) compared to LSU's 50.8 percent (32-63) performance. The Tide also struggled with the ball, committing 20 turnovers in the game.
Georgia 53, Vanderbilt 43: Khaalidah Miller scored 12 points, Krista Donald and Erika Ford each added 10 points as ninth-seeded Georgia beat No. 8 seed Vanderbilt.
The ninth-seeded Lady Bulldogs (20-10) will play No. 5 South Carolina, the tournament's top seed, today. Georgia has won four of six.
Christina Foggie, the SEC's leading scorer this season, finished with 16 points and Kylee Smith had 10 for Vanderbilt (18-12).
The Commodores, who have lost nine of 11, failed to win an SEC tournament game for the first time in 15 years.
Georgia had lost nine of 12 to Vanderbilt, but the Lady Bulldogs took control of the game with a 16-0 run late in the first half to take a 15-point lead on Halle Washington's putback.