November 20, 2009 8:38:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Armelie Lumanu is the perfect player for the 2009-10 Mississippi State women''s basketball team.
The senior from Kinshasa, Congo, is adept at slashing to the basket from the wing or rolling off screens to create opportunities for her teammates.
The 5-foot-9 guard/forward is equally proficient posting guards up on the block and twisting and turning to get a shot off.
Most importantly, Lumanu is comfortable with the basketball in her hands and directing the Lady Bulldogs'' offense.
No. 25 MSU will need Lumanu to have a steady hand at 2 p.m. Sunday when the Lady Bulldogs play host to Maryland (3-0).
Lumanu has 34 points in MSU''s first three victories. But she also has showcased an ability to do a lot more than score. She has 15 rebounds, 14 assists, seven steals, and only four turnovers in a multi-threat role.
"Back home, I used to play point guard," Lumanu said. "When I came to college (Southeastern Illinois) coach G (Greg Franklin) tried to make me play two and three and one. It was the same thing when I came here. I like to play point guard. I like to pass (and set up my teammates to score)."
Lumanu split time at point guard last season with Alexis Rack and Diamber Johnson. All three of those players, as well as junior transfer Ashlie Billingslea, figure to see playing time at point guard this season, so Lumanu''s versatility gives coach Sharon Fanning-Otis the option of playing Lumanu at a wing guard or at a small forward. She even could use Lumanu at a power forward because she is so long and athletic.
The Lady Bulldogs capitalize on Lumanu''s quickness by using her at the top of their pressure defense. Her long arms allow her to get into passing lanes and create havoc against opponents.
Fanning-Otis said Lumanu gives the Lady Bulldogs a dimension not many teams have. She plans to continue to rotate Lumanu in several roles this season.
"She is running the one from the get-go," Fanning -Otis said. "She is trying to make things happen. I think she has gotten better with a jump shot. She is going to need that. If she can get past somebody, she is going to have to have a mid-range jump shot.
"Her game to help us win is going to be all over the floor. It is going to be defense, rebounding, pushing the ball in transition. She gets the ball out and pushes it and makes us better in an open-court situation. She is not just a one-dimensional player, and that is what is going to make us a better basketball team."
Utah Valley coach Cathy Nixon, whose team lost to MSU 81-35 on Wednesday, was impressed with what she saw from Lumanu.
"I thought she ran the team really well tonight," Nixon said. "She got the ball where they wanted to go. With a quarterback like that, she just makes everybody on the floor better."
The University of Maryland improved to 3-0 Thursday with an 84-67 victory against Old Dominion.
Freshman forward Diandra Tchatchouang scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Terrapins, who defeated MSU 80-73 last season in the title game of the Terrapin Classic in College Park, Md.
Kristi Toliver led Maryland with 24 points to help hand MSU its first loss of the season after an 11-0 start.
Toliver, Marissa Coleman, and Sa''de Wiley-Gatewood are gone from that team. Toliver and Coleman were part of the all-time winningest class in Maryland history (126-19). As freshmen, they claimed the 2006 national title and guided the Terrapins to a Sweet 16 and two Elite Eight berths to close their careers.
Maryland lost to Louisville 77-60 in the Elite Eight last season.
Toliver, the 2009 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, became the first Terrapin in school history to be selected a first-team AP All-American last year. She was a second-team pick as a junior.
Coleman, a second-team All-American last season, finished her career as the school''s second-leading scorer (2,205 points), while Toliver was third all-time with 2,078 points.
Reigning ACC Rookie of the Year Lynetta Kizer is Maryland''s only returning starter this season. The team has nine freshmen and sophomores on its 11-player roster.
Maryland was picked to finish fifth in the ACC preseason media poll, receiving three first-place votes. The Terrapins finished just out of the Associated Press preseason top-25 poll, garnering 114 votes to come in at No. 27.
The Lady Bulldogs want to break a record Sunday.
Chad Thomas, MSU''s coordinator of athletic marketing, said the school is doing all it can to make sure the basketball fans in the Greater Golden Triangle area have an opportunity to be at Humphrey Coliseum at 2 p.m. Sunday to watch MSU play host to Maryland.
Not only are all fans 17 and under admitted free this season to women''s basketball games, Thomas said a "Take a Parent to the Game" promotion will be in effect for Sunday''s game.
Thomas said the promotion will allow parents accompanied by their children to be admitted free with a voucher available at the Humphrey Coliseum ticket office on gameday.
"We have a lot of enthusiasm around the program right now being No. 25 in the country, so we want to try to capitalize on it," Thomas said. Thomas also said MSU handed out 6,000 tickets for Sunday''s game this week to city schools to give to their students. He also said the school is advertising today and Saturday in local newspapers to attract interest in the game. The ads will include a voucher that fans can cut out and bring to the ticket office to redeem for a general admission ticket to the game.
"We were extremely pleased with the success we had last year on three occasions when we hand-delivered tickets," Thomas said.
MSU hopes to set some kind of attendance record Sunday in what could be its first test this season against a national-caliber opponent.
MSU''s all-time single-game attendance record is 6,055 set Feb. 9, 2003, against LSU.
General admission single-game tickets to all MSU women''s basketball games are $5, while general admission season tickets can be purchased for $25.
The Lady Bulldog Booster Club is sponsoring Sunday''s game.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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