February 26, 2010 7:57:00 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- One big hop is all Mary Kathryn Govero needs.
When Govero is in rhythm and "feeling it," she typically steps into her outside shot with a jump that gives her balance and allows her to get maximum lift.
Thursday was one of those nights.
Govero scored a game-high 20 points, and Tysheka Grimes added 16 points to lead the Mississippi State women''s basketball team to a 71-47 victory against Alabama 71-47 before a crowd of 1,350 at Coleman Coliseum.
"In warmups and even in shootaround earlier today I was kind of feeling it, so in the game I came in with a lot of confidence," said Govero, who was 8 of 11 from the field (4 of 6 from 3-point range). "I knew if I was open I could knock down the open shot. I just tried to knock down shots when I had good looks."
The 20-point showing was the fourth time Govero has scored 20 or more points in a game this season. MSU is 4-0 in those games.
The victory helped MSU (18-10, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) move back into a tie for third place in the SEC with Vanderbilt. MSU beat Vanderbilt twice in the regular season, and holds a tiebreaker if it comes into play following the Lady Bulldogs'' final game of the regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday at LSU.
MSU''s performance helped put it on better footing entering that game. Coming off a season-low scoring total last Sunday in a 50-36 loss to Auburn in Starkville, MSU shared the basketball better and played with more energy. It still committed too many unforced turnovers (17), but it attacked the glass (46-36 rebounding edge) and, aside from the final four minutes, looked more connected.
"I was anticipating we would come in and play hard," MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "I know as we enter this next basketball game we''re going to have to play harder and harder every game."
Govero said the Lady Bulldogs'' defense sparked the offense. She thought MSU moved the ball well (12 assists) and looked more like the team people have come to expect this season.
"Before the game, everybody just came out with energy," Govero said. "There was energy in the locker room and there was energy in the warmups, and that led to energy in the game. That''s what we''re going to need Sunday because we know we''re going to have a tough test on the road at LSU, and we know we''re going to have to make the first punch there and come out the aggressor."
The game against LSU will help settle the jumble in the middle of the SEC standings. Tennessee (14-1) and Kentucky (11-4) will be the top seeds at the SEC Tournament on March 4-7 in Duluth, Ga. After MSU and Vanderbilt, Georgia and LSU (8-7) and Florida and Ole Miss (7-8) are jockeying for position.
The top four teams will earn first-round byes and won''t have to play Thursday in the opening round.
Fanning-Otis praised the play of Govero and credited Grimes for bringing energy to the team. But she said everyone will have to raise their level of play and to play tougher Sunday and in the SEC Tournament if the Lady Bulldogs want to receive a second consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament.
"MKat is a good shooter, and you want her to take open looks," Fanning-Otis said. "But you want all of them to take their green-light looks. ... We need to be able to shoot over 45 percent for a game. We ended up shooting 45 percent. That is something we need to be more consistent with."
The last time Govero eclipsed the 20-point mark was Feb. 4 in a 77-44 victory against Alabama in Starkville. She was 7 of 17 from the field (4 of 9 from 3-point range) in the game.
Grimes, who also had four rebounds, had one of her best games of the season. The senior forward, who missed the first 10 SEC games due to a foot injury, was forced to leave the game midway through the second half after getting hit above the right eye. Grimes returned to the bench with 9 minutes, 15 seconds left to play with a bandage above her right eye.
Fanning-Otis said Grimes needed to get stitches to close the gash and wasn''t available to comment after the game.
Alabama (11-17, 3-12) trailed by as many as 18 in the first half before cutting the deficit to 29-19 at halftime. But MSU hit its first four shots in the second half in a 10-0 run that helped them pull away.
The Lady Bulldogs shot 58.6 percent (17 of 29) in the final 20 minutes.
"Mississippi State is one of the most athletic teams in the league," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "I thought we had some really good looks at the basket, but when you play against a team that is as athletic as Mississippi State, you have to make shots when you have open shots. They did a really good job of, it seemed to me, making every shot when they needed to make it."
NOTES: Rack (1,667 career points) had nine points (five steals) on 4-of-14 shooting and needs just 11 points to pass Jennifer Fambrough (1,677) and move into third place on MSU''s all-time scoring list. The senior guard had her string of 39 consecutive games scoring in double figures snapped Sunday. ... MSU improved to 17-1 when it scores more than 60 points and 14-2 when it leads at halftime. ... Alabama''s Tierney Jenkins scored six points to become the 22nd member of the school''s 1,000-point club. The junior forward, who now has 1,001 career points, is the 11th member of the club to reach the milestone in three years or less. She also is one of seven players in Alabama history with 1,000 points and 650 rebounds.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
2. Ole Miss earns NCAA bid; Southern Mississippi left out COLLEGE SPORTS