November 24, 2010 6:03:00 AM
MOBILE, Ala. -- The double-doubles will come.
Ashley Brown works too hard not to be rewarded with double-digit efforts in points and rebounds.
On Tuesday, Brown inched closer to her first career double-double at Mississippi State with an impeccable sense of timing.
The junior college transfer provided a jolt in the first half and then added another key play in the second half to help the MSU women''s basketball team defeat the University of South Alabama 56-43 at the Mitchell Center.
"It brings a lot of energy," Brown said of her rebounding. "I guess when I do it it helps get everybody on track. They depend on me to rebound, so I guess it brings them energy."
Brown (career-high 14 points, nine rebounds) missed her first double-double at MSU despite matching a career-best with 27 minutes. She finished with only two fouls, which allowed her to remain active on defense and aggressive on the boards.
Six of Brown''s rebounds came on the offensive end. Leading 19-10, MSU (2-1) struggled through an offensive lull that saw it commit seven turnovers that allowed USA (2-2) to cut the lead to 19-18 with 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first half.
Brown saw to it the Lady Jaguars didn''t build any more confidence. She stepped into the passing lanes for a steal and a layup that kicked the margin back to three. She then showed her prowess on the blocks, carving space down low and using her long arms to grab rebounds on two of three possessions and convert putbacks off misses by Judith Tabala and Diamber Johnson. The flurry helped the Lady Bulldogs re-take the momentum and absorb the Lady Jaguars'' best sustained attack.
Brown''s eighth rebound proved just as valuable. USA had cut MSU''s lead to 47-41 with 4:04 remaining and appeared ready to make a push. On MSU''s next possession, Johnson missed a drive, Tabala rebounded the shot and missed a putback, and Brown hauled in the carom. The 5-foot-11 transfer from Jefferson (Mo.) College wanted to go back up with the ball, but she realized she was under the basket. She looked to the left wing and spotted Mary Kathryn Govero, who took the pass and hit a 3-pointer with 3:42 to play that gave the Lady Bulldogs the cushion they needed to seal the deal.
Brown said she doesn''t sense when a team needs a lift. She did, though, take bit of prodding from one of the assistant coaches -- she thinks it was Franqua Bedell -- and put it to use. She said Bedell told her she hadn''t touched the ball, so she went out and rectified that matter with some blue collar play.
"I wasn''t looking for my shot," Brown said. "If I had a shot, I was passing, and I don''t know what came over me. I guess the steal started it and then the rebounds came to me."
Brown had 13- and 10-rebound efforts in her first two games as a Lady Bulldog. Eight and seven of those rebounds were on the offensive end. She could have had more and might have secured her first double-double if not for foul trouble -- four fouls in both games -- that limited her to 27 and 20 minutes, respectively.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said Brown''s ability to stay out of foul trouble was key because it allowed the team to maintain its rotations, especially up front with Tabala (seven points, nine rebounds) and Danielle Rector (six points) at center.
"It was huge," Fanning-Otis said. "Anytime a player gets an offensive rebound and putback it gives a team a lift. It was huge that she played smarter and continued to play harder and with balance and within herself."
Govero (game-high 19 points) also delivered a solid offensive performance. The senior guard continued to look more comfortable finding seams in the defense and working free for open shots. She showed patience and a hit a variety of shots off screens, in transition, and off dribble drives to get her points.
Govero said Brown''s hustle plays in the paint helped MSU stem the tide. It also helped the Lady Bulldogs win the battle of points in the paint (28-14) and second-chance points (16-10).
"It is all the difference when shots aren''t falling," Govero said. "She is always scrapping on the boards on both ends. Sometimes it gets her in trouble, but tonight she came up big for us. She had some huge offensive rebound putbacks that helped us stop the bleeding and get going in the right direction."
One of the only low points for MSU was a 16-turnover effort in the first half. The Lady Bulldogs'' inexperience -- five junior college players and four freshman -- showed against an athletic Lady Jaguars squad that used full-court pressure defense in an attempt to create tempo. But MSU settled down in the second half and finished with 24 turnovers, as Johnson and Katia May showed better poise in negotiating the Lady Jaguars'' strategy of hedging high on screens. The guards did a better job of keeping their dribble alive and attacking rather than pulling the ball back out and reversing their progress.
"We''re making progress with every practice and every game," Govero said. "The difference between tonight and the other night (a 62-42 loss last week at Tulane) was when they made a run we were able to pull ourselves back together, get some stops, and make a run of our own. It starts off with hustle plays when the offense is breaking down."
Brown is only too happy to oblige.
MSU will return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday when it plays host to the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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