March 4, 2011 11:09:00 AM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Diamber Johnson scored her team''s final 11 points Thursday night to lead the 11th-seeded Mississippi State women''s basketball team to a 49-47 victory against sixth-seeded Auburn in a Southeastern Conference Tournament opening-round game at Bridgestone Arena.
MSU (13-16) will meet third-seeded Vanderbilt at 9 tonight (SportSouth) in the quarterfinals. It is the third straight year MSU has won its first game in SEC tournament play. The three-game win streak also matches the season''s longest.
Sixth-seeded Auburn lost for the second time this season to MSU and fell to 15-15.
Johnson didn''t score in the opening half but took matters into her hands with 16 second-half points. MSU trailed 41-30 with 9 minutes, 48 seconds left in regulation. An 18-5 run followed. When Johnson hit a jumper at the 1:27 mark, MSU led for only the second time -- 48-46.
"Diamber really took over the ballgame in the second half," MSU associate head coach Greg Franklin said. "Our guard play was not very good in the first half. However, in the second half, the guards really took over the ballgame. We were much more aggressive in the second half."
The first half wasn''t one for either team to remember. More than eight minutes into the contest, MSU led 2-1. The teams combined to miss 23 of the first 25 field goal attempts taken.
Auburn held an 8-4 lead with 8 minutes, 23 seconds left in the opening half. Both teams found a little offensive rhythm, but MSU never could grab another lead. Auburn scored seven of the final nine points of the half to take a 22-15 halftime lead.
The Lady Bulldogs shot 28 percent in the opening half and didn''t attempt a free throw.
"The first half was not very good," Franklin said, "However, we got into the locker room and we were only down seven points. We couldn''t find any offensive rhythm in the first half. We knew if we could get out in transition and get some shots to fall, we had a chance to come back."
Auburn held their slight lead for the opening stages of the second half. However, MSU did show some signs of offensive life. Mary Kathryn Govero stroked a pair of 3-point baskets on back-to-back possessions. After MSU closed within two points, Auburn scored on three straight possessions to open a 35-27 advantage. A layup by Chantel Hilliard ran the AU lead to 39-28 with 10:31 left. The teams traded scores and AU still held an 11-point push at 41-30.
This time, the MSU rally took effect. Johnson drained a trey and after an Ashley Brown block on the defensive end, Danielle Rector drained another. Suddenly, the Lady Bulldogs were within striking distance at 41-36.
The MSU defense took over, fueling a 7-3 run, brining MSU within one at 44-43 on a Johnson layup with 4:17. The Pontotoc junior continued her mini-run by nailing a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the key at the 2:54 mark.
Auburn missed five shots on the offensive end, before Johnson got the Lady Bulldogs over the hump, draining a jumper for a 48-46 lead with 1:27 left.
MSU held Auburn to two field goals in the final 9:48. Catina Bett had the final of her four blocks in the closing seconds to preserve the victory.
MSU hit 18 of 50 shots from the field (36 percent), 6 of 20 shots from 3-point range (30 percent), and 7 of 10 shots from the foul line (70 percent). The Tigers hit 20 of 58 shots from the field (34.5 percent), 0 of 8 shots from 3-point range, and 7 of 16 shots from the foul line (43.8 percent).
Auburn held a 40-35 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had eight assists and 19 turnovers, while the Tigers had 11 assists and 15 turnovers. MSU was also credited with six blocked shots for the contest.
Govero added 15 points for MSU, while Bett had 10. Brown had a team-high nine rebounds before fouling out in the closing minutes.
Auburn received a double-double from Hilliard (18 points, 11 rebounds). Alli Smalley had 14 points.
n South Carolina 62, Ole Miss 50: At Nashville, Tenn., Ole Miss'' Season Ends With Loss To South Carolina At SEC Tournament
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The fifth-seeded Gamecocks (17-13) used a 9-1 run in the second half to pull away and eliminate the 12th-seeded Rebels (10-19).
South Carolina will face fourth-seeded Georgia at 6:30 tonight (SportSouth).
The Gamecocks led 30-23 at halftime. Ole Miss cut the lead to 31-28 on a free throw by Courtney Marbra with 17 minutes, 33 seconds to play. South Carolina pushed its lead to 40-32 before Ole Miss cut the lead to three on a putback from Kenyotta Jenkins with 12:33 left remaining.
The Gamecocks used a 9-1 run to push its lead back to 50-38 with 8:16 left.
Ole Miss, which entered the game shooting 68.2 percent from the free throw line, hit 13 of 26 (50 percent).
Valecnia McFarland led Ole Miss with 14 points, while Nikki Byrd had 13. Senior Kayla Melson was 1 of 16 from the field with eight rebounds in her final game. She entered the game needing five assists to be fifth all-time in Ole Miss history recorded three and finished her career sixth all-time.
n LSU 60, Alabama 36: At Nashville, Tenn., The Crimson Tide (16-14) couldn''t recover from an 0-for-11 start from the field in their loss to the Lady Tigers (19-12).
"I thought we played hard, but we did not shoot the ball very well," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "We did not play as well as we needed to play together. We had some wide-open looks, and when you shoot that poorly against a team like LSU, it is going to be tough to win. They made shots, and we did not do a good job of that."
Junior Ericka Russell led Alabama with nine points. Senior Tierney Jenkins had seven points and six rebounds.
LSU took the lead in the first few minutes and stayed on top for the remainder of the first half. Alabama was 0-for-11 from the floor before freshman Shafontaye Myers scored the Crimson Tide''s first basket of the game at the 10-minute, 12-second mark. The Lady Tigers led 26-9 at halftime after hitting 42.9 percent of their attempts (12-for-28), while Alabama managed 16.0 percent (4-for-25).
Both teams started the second slow offensively before Russell buried a three-pointer for the first points of the half for either team. Senior Varisia Raffington would make another three for the Tide to cut the deficit to 16, but Alabama would not get any closer.
Alabama shot 14-for-58 from the field (24.1 percent), while LSU went 24-for-49 (49 percent). The Lady Tigers outrebounded the Crimson Tide 42-29.
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3. New Hope's Jennings chooses EMCC HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Starkville High's Thompson signs with Mississippi College HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Bulldogs finish fourth at Old Waverly COLLEGE SPORTS