December 5, 2010 12:58:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Led by its front court and an unlikely key player, Mississippi State''s women''s basketball team beat North Texas 66-60 on Saturday.
The Lady Bulldogs got 17 points from Ashley Brown and a career-high 10 points and seven rebounds from first-year forward Ashley Newsome, who spent four seasons as a middle blocker for MSU''s volleyball team.
The Lady Bulldogs (4-2) labored through the first half, starting 2 of 12 from the floor and falling behind 12-4 to the Mean Green (1-7), who hadn''t won since Nov. 12.
Newsome was a force when MSU needed it, hitting back-to-back baskets to give MSU a 17-15 led. She later hit a basket to give MSU a 51-47 lead with five minutes to go in the game.
Newsome played a career-high 19 minutes and was 5 of 8 from the floor. She had three offensive rebounds and two blocks.
"It''s very encouraging," Newsome said, "especially going from one sport to another and having less than a week to play. But I''ve been working hard and my teammates have encouraged me."
"If the second seven days is as good as the first seven, we''ll have something," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis added.
With leading scorer Mary Kathryn Govero hobbled by a sprained ankle suffered Wednesday against Louisiana Tech, the Lady Bulldogs desperately needed scoring help. Despite playing 37 minutes, Govero''s movement and lift on her jump shot was limited. The senior finished 2 of 7 from the floor for five points.
Brown said it didn''t feel like Govero was missing from the lineup, though she and Newsome acknowledged other players needed to step up if she struggled.
"Even though she didn''t shoot like she usually does, it seemed like the same M-Kat," Brown said. "We all needed to pick it up."
Fanning-Otis said Govero''s ankle injury will likely require surgery at the end of the year, leaving the team''s most experienced player to play through pain for the rest of the season. Govero started to favor her injured ankle midway through the second half.
MSU led 26-24 at the break, leaning on Newsome and Brown who combined to hit 6 of 8 shots. The rest of the team was 6 of 26 from the floor in the first half.
The Mean Green enjoyed a stellar start to the second half, racing out to a 41-36 lead with 13 minutes left in the game.
MSU used a 21-8 run to take a 57-49 lead in the second half, holding off a furious North Texas rally in the dying minutes.
Brown was key on the boards in the second half, finishing with a total 15. She had eight of MSU''s 21 offensive rebounds. Her energy in the paint was positive, Fanning-Otis said.
"I think the more understanding you have and the more you play, you have to be able to step back and regroup," Fanning-Otis said. "She''s maturing. The two games she''s been in foul trouble, we have not been as successful as a team. When you come up with a double-double and you''re undersized like she is, that''s good."
MSU point guard Diamber Johnson had 14 points.
North Texas was led by Brittney Hudson''s 18 points.
MSU returns to the court next Saturday when it hosts Utah.