February 11, 2011 9:19:00 AM
OXFORD -- There''s vertical and then there''s the veer.
Mary Kathryn Govero doesn''t mind which one she uses because both are just as deadly.
The senior guard showed impeccable timing delivering daggers with her assortment of jump shots Thursday, scoring a game-high 20 points to lead the Mississippi State women''s basketball team to a 59-43 victory against the University of Mississippi before a crowd of 574 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
Govero''s 7-of-10 shooting effort from the field (4 of 5 from 3-point range) helped her reach 20 or more points for the fourth time this season. In addition to scoring in double figures for the sixth game in a row, the 5-foot-11 Clinton native grabbed eight rebounds, handed out three assists, made two steals, and played solid defense in a 39-minute performance that ranked with her best of the season.
"MKat created a couple of things," said MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, whose team improved to 10-13 and 2-9 in the Southeastern Conference. "That is something I am very, very proud of. It is not always going to be just catch and shot. You might have to put it on the floor, and you''re going to have to be ready to shoot and be able to go by people.
"I feel that part of her game and that confidence level is there this year, and she is learning this team and learning what she is going to have to do to make this team a better team."
Govero grudgingly gave some of the credit for the development of her unique jump shot to her brother Christopher. At 6-3, Christopher used to block his share of Mary Kathryn''s shots when they played against each other in their backyard. It didn''t take Govero long to figure out she needed to try something different, so she took to altering the trajectory on her jump shot. Instead of going straight up like most shooters, she learned how to lean back after coming to a jump stop, which created space between her and the defender.
The move appeared at timely junctures Thursday night. Ole Miss'' Courtney Marbra''s jump shot cut MSU''s lead to 41-37 with 10 minutes, 7 seconds remaining. Govero answered with a move that has become second nature. Stationed on the right wing, she dribbled like she was going to drive. As she approached the baseline she came to a jump stop and threw herself back to create separation that gave her an opening to hit a jump shot with 9:41 to play.
"I don''t consciously think about it when I am doing it," Govero said. "It is just something I guess I have developed after playing basketball for years and years."
Govero moved left past a high screen and shook a defender to make a 3-pointer at the 7:07 mark to push the Lady Bulldogs'' lead to 46-37.
For good measure, she grabbed a defensive rebound after hitting her shots at the other end to complete the sequence.
Govero said she honed her mid-range game before she branched out and became a 3-point shooter. In high school, she said pretty much all of her points came thanks to mid-range shots, and she has just perfected those skills in college.
"I kind of revert back to those days sometimes," Govero said.
Ole Miss (10-13, 3-8) played its second game in a row without leading scorer Kayla Melson. The senior guard hit her head in a win Feb. 3 at the University of Florida and has been suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Without her team-leading 15.6 points per game, the Rebels relied on Valencia McFarland to carry the load. The freshman point guard had a team-high 16 points and a game-high seven assists (three turnovers) but was 8 of 23 from the field and was shadowed by Porsha Porter and Diamber Johnson for most of the evening.
It didn''t help Ole Miss'' cause that freshman guard Shae Nelson, who entered the game averaging 9.3 ppg. went 0 of 8 from the field and was scoreless for the first time this season.
Govero did her part against Nelson by beating her to spots and denying her room to move on the perimeter. She also showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time to corral key defensive rebounds that helped MSU pull away after Ole Miss had closed with four midway through the second half.
Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said Govero is one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the SEC but has worked to make herself more than a one-dimensional player.
"She is unfazed," Ladner said. "It doesn''t matter about the score. She has a toughness about her. She never changed her demeanor when things were going south for them, she was the next one up to hit a big shot for them.
"Mary Kathryn is really strong. They are going to miss her next year because there are not many players like that. She does a great job for them."
Johnson has been watching Govero hit from 3-point range and go off one or two feet when she launches herself backward in her version of a fadeaway jump shot. She said the separation Govero creates on jumpers off dribble penetration complements her improved ability to connect from 3-point range.
"That is her shot right there," Johnson said of the "fadeaway" jump shot. "She is the only person who can get away with it. She has been doing it for so long and scoring off it for so long. It is unorthodox for anybody else. It is something she just has down pat."
Porter (16 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals) and Johnson (15 points, 3 of 3 from 3-point range, six rebounds) helped MSU outrebound an SEC opponent for only the fourth time this season.
The Lady Bulldogs also were 10 of 20 from 3-point range. It was the second game in a row, and third time in the past four games, the team has shot 50 percent or better from beyond the arc.
Those signs point to a team that is slowly coming together. Johnson hopes MSU keeps inching closer to producing a 40-minute effort.
"We still have lulls, but we have been putting two halves together the past couple of games," Johnson said. "We just have to figure out not to let that lull affect what we''re doing. We''re getting there."
MSU will play host to South Carolina at 1 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network).
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.