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Defense sparks Louisiana Tech

 

Adam Minichino

 

STARKVILLE --Young teams typically need to learn games aren''t decided on one play. 

 

A shot or a bad break can be a catalyst, but the lapses along the way often are forgotten when the tide turns. 

 

The Mississippi State women''s basketball team learned that lesson Wednesday night. 

 

An injury to senior Mary Kathryn Govero rattled MSU''s rhythm, but defense and hot shooting in the second half proved to be the difference as Louisiana Tech pulled away for a 69-61 victory before a crowd of 1,213 at Humphrey Coliseum. 

 

Whitney Jones scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the second half to lead four players in double figures for the Lady Techsters (3-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak. 

 

Judith Tabala led MSU (3-2) with 15 points, while Diamber Johnson (14) and Porsha Porter (10) also scored in double figures. But Johns scored only two of her points after intermission, and the Lady Bulldogs regrouped too late after losing Govero. 

 

MSU also suffered from too many lapses on defense. The Lady Techsters capitalized on missed assignments to hit several key shots in the first half when the teams struggled to find their footing. 

 

MSU still led 23-20 at halftime and extended that margin to 36-28 on a basket by Tabala inside off an assist from Govero at the 14-minute, 34-second mark. 

 

But the momentum shifted shortly after that as Louisiana Tech moved to a box-and-one to contain Govero, who scored all seven points early in the second half. The move to zone came just as the Lady Techsters found fifth gear and got into transition. They used a 12-0 run in the span of 3:58 to turn a seven-point deficit into a 43-38 lead with 11:05 to play. 

 

Govero appeared to twist her right ankle hustling back to defend a transition basket in the run. She had to be helped off the court and returned only for a brief stint with a little more than five minutes remaining and Louisiana Tech leading by eight points. 

 

"We couldn''t do the things we were doing to score in the first half," Johnson said. "We had lost our composure and, as a whole we didn''t know what we were doing out there. (The zone) affected us a lot." 

 

Louisiana Tech coach Teresa Weatherspoon said her team wants to play with an up-tempo mentality, but she said it was a matter of finding the opportunities to get out and run. When the Lady Techsters did, the rest of their game followed. 

 

"I saw where it was needed tonight for us to be able to take them out of their comfort zone," Weatherspoon said. "It kind of worked for us,"  

 

Weatherspoon said the Lady Techsters have worked in practice on a box-and-one, but Wednesday night was the first opportunity to utilize it. She also was pleased with her team''s defense down the stretch as it held on after the Lady Bulldogs pulled to within four with 2:48 to play. 

 

Shantale Bramble-Donaldson (14 points), Adrienne Johnson (13), and Tarkeisha Wysinger-Mackey (10) also scored in double figures for Louisiana Tech, which snapped a three-game losing streak to MSU. 

 

The spark might have come when Jones hit a 3-pointer off an inbounds pass with 18:39 to go in the second half to cut MSU''s lead to 25-20. The Lady Bulldogs had the momentum and could have used three consecutive defensive stops to pull away, but Jones'' shot gave her confidence and stemmed the tide until the rest of her teammates got into the groove. 

 

"We didn''t our job defensively, and my concern is that is the way we have practiced somewhat and we lose focus if things don''t go our way," MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "We have to be tougher. If this team gets tougher and matures, it will be a good team before it is over." 

 

Johnson agreed the game might have been the best representation of what a young team has to overcome if it is going to make strides to compete in the Southeastern Conference. 

 

"That is one of the reasons I am really not as frustrated because I would rather go through it now so we can work on it in practice so whenever the next situation happens like that we know how to handle it better," Johnson said. "We relied too much on MKat knowing her role and me and MKat period. We just have to step up in other places to help make up for MKat." 

 

Junior forward Ashley Brown, who was coming off her first career double-double at MSU, was scoreless and had five rebounds in 22 minutes before fouling out.  

 

The Lady Bulldogs also committed 16 turnovers and had only nine assists and allowed the Lady Techsters to shoot 54.3 percent (19 of 35) in the second half. Those areas overshadowed the fact MSU shot 57.1 percent (16 of 28) in the final 20 minutes. 

 

Fanning-Otis said the loss of Govero and Brown changed rotations and put people in unfamiliar roles, which hampered the team''s comeback chances late in the game. She said the Lady Bulldogs need to take better care of the basketball and to learn the lessons that will help them continue to improve. 

 

"I felt we did adjust and re-adjust and were able to start pressing a little bit, but (Johnson) came up with a couple of huge rebounds and putbacks," Fanning-Otis said. "That just breaks your back after you work hard." 

 

NOTE: Fanning-Otis hopes Govero will be ready at 1 p.m. Saturday when MSU plays host to North Texas. ... Fanning-Otis also said junior forward Elyseia Dunn will have knee surgery next week and will miss the rest of the season. ... Senior Ashley Newsome, who was named earlier this week to the 2010 All-Southeastern Conference volleyball team, has been honored for her community service work at Mississippi State. Newsome and volleyball student-athletes from the league''s 10 other volleyball programs were named to the 2010 SEC Volleyball Community Service team Wednesday. The senior from Florence, Ala., has been an active participant in numerous community service projects undertaken by the M-Club.

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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