February 28, 2014 12:28:39 PM
STARKVILLE -- The inability to make one more play Thursday night resulted in another painful overtime loss for the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
Samarie Walker hit 1 of 2 free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining to force overtime, and Bria Goss had eight of her game-high 20 points in the extra session to help No. 12 Kentucky escape with an 81-74 victory against MSU before Senior Night a crowd of 2,871 at Humphrey Coliseum.
After the game, MSU coach Vic Schaefer's agitation came through in the rat-a-tat tap of his pen on the table. The second-year head coach again blamed himself for not getting his team home in its third OT loss of the season in its third-consecutive OT game.
"I loved our passion, I loved our competitiveness, I loved our heart, and I loved our toughness," Schaefer said. "It comes down to one rebound with 1.whatever left. It is something we work on every "It is very disappointing to play that hard that long at home against a really good team. We know the development of our program and where we are today and where we were a year ago, getting our tail handed to us by 50-something at their place. It is just disappointing you can't get them home. Again, it is my job as head coach to get them home."
Leading 66-65 with less than a minute to play, MSU didn't execute its half-court set and get the ball inside to Alwal. Instead, freshman Dominique Dillingham, who was 3 of 16 from the field, tried to make something happen and drove the baseline. Her shot skimmed off the backboard and gave Kentucky (21-7, 9-6) a chance to win. Coach Matthew Mitchell called timeout with 9.9 seconds to go and drew up a play that resulted in a miss by Jennifer O'Neill (six points, 1-of-12 shooting). Goss rebounded the miss and missed the follow in the lane. Walker rebounded that miss and was fouled as the final horn sounded. The officials went to the scorer's table to review the video of the final seconds and put 1.2 back on the clock. Walker missed the first shot and hit the second to send the game into OT.
Goss was the hero in the extra session, hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 69 and a jumper to tie the game at 71. After Kastine Evans' layup gave Kentucky the lead for good, 73-71, with 2 minutes, 27 seconds to play, Goss received a little help from Mitchell to help provide an insurmountable cushion. As his players lined up for an inbounds play, Mitchell called "Back for Bria," which required Goss to be on the low block to the weak side of the basket. Goss said she was moving away from her spot on the floor to help Evans until Mitchell called to her and helped put her in the right spot.
"I was really the one in the wrong and he was like, 'Bria,' and I know what that means. I was wrong and I had to get to the right spot," Goss said. "He called the right play and I got open thanks to DeNesha (Stallworth, who had 16 points and 20 rebounds), who set a really good screen. I just stepped up and hit some big free throws."
Goss responded by running off a screen on the baseline and finding an opening behind the 3-point line. The defense lost Goss on the switch and recovered too late as Dillingham fouled her with 1:43 to go.
"She just got so many looks that she created for herself with some real sharp play on offense," Mitchell said. "She was real aggressive tonight and had some beautiful reads tonight and got to the bucket. When we were struggling to score, she stepped up with no fear and made some big plays."
MSU hit only one more shot in OT and missed three free throws in the final 1:23.
Breanna Richardson led MSU (18-11, 5-10 Southeastern Conference) with 17 points. Kendra Grant (13), Martha Alwal (12 points, 16 rebounds, five blocked shots in 44 minutes), and Jerica James (11 points, four assists) and Savannah Carter (11 points) also scored in double figures. But MSU was unable to overcome a 51-43 rebounding deficit that saw Kentucky grab 18 offensive rebounds en route to a 23-14 edge in second-chance point. MSU also shot a 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) from the free throw line, its second-lowest percentage of the season.
The loss spoiled the final regular-season home game for seniors Candace Foster and Katia May, who both started. Foster didn't score in four minutes, while May had two points (1 of 8 shooting) and seven assists in 27 minutes.
After the game, Richardson also blamed herself for the loss, citing her 3-of-9 effort from the free throw line as a key factor.
"If I make free throws we win the game," Richardson said. "I was 3-for-9. Usually I don't miss that many free throws."
Schaefer was equally disheartened, especially because he knows how far his team has come from a 100-47 loss on Jan. 27, 2013, at Kentucky. Unfortunately, like Schaefer warned in the preseason, the progress this season hasn't translated into tangible results in the SEC. With a regular-season game remaining Sunday at Georgia, MSU is 12th in the SEC at 5-10. Last season, it finished 5-11 in the SEC. He said better execution and one more free throw, one more field goal, or one more rebound could have spelled the difference in disappointing overtime losses at Ole Miss, at Alabama, and against Kentucky.
"It is just 1.2 seconds and a rebound," Schaefer said. "There were two really good teams tonight battling it out. You just have to make one more play. That is what this league is about a lot of nights, one more play.
MSU will play at noon Sunday (SportSouth) at Georgia.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.