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First-half run propels Kentucky women past MSU

 

From Special Reports

 

LEXINGTON, Ken. -- The Mississippi State women''s basketball team failed to keep the offensive pace early Sunday, falling to No. 19 Kentucky 72-60 in Southeastern Conference game at Memorial Coliseum. 

 

MSU, which has lost five games in a row, slipped to 8-8 and 0-4 in the SEC. Kentucky, coached by MSU alumnus Matthew Mitchell, improved to 13-4 and 2-2. 

 

"I''m about as ticked as I could possibly be," MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "My job is to help develop young leaders and help these young ladies be the very best they can be and whatever they achieve to do. This basketball game is just a platform by which to teach and we represent and yes we have to win ball games. That''s my objective, and if I try to keep that focus and stay level with that then I think they can learn to be winners and not be discouraged. You have to punch and fight and expect to win every game that you play. That''s just the way life is and life''s going to be just as tough. They''re learning lessons from this basketball game, so that''s my job is to teach and to help them be the best they can be, and we''re not there. We''re not mentally tough and you''re going to have to be mentally tough in life. So, once we get that ballgames will fall into place for us." 

 

Kentucky scored the game''s first seven points, as MSU went more than four minutes before scoring. The Lady Bulldogs responded with the game''s next eight points. A 3-pointer by Mary Kathryn Govero gave the Lady Bulldogs an 8-7 lead with 14 minutes, 36 seconds left before halftime. 

 

Kentucky took the lead for good on its next possession when Jennifer O''Neill hit a 3-pointer. The trey started a 22-0 run in which MSU went 8:46 without scoring before a fast-break layup by Porsha Porter broke the draught. The run helped Kentucky take a 36-14 lead with less than three minutes left in the half. It led 42-21 at halftime. 

 

"Our team really played hard," Mitchell said of his team''s effort in the first half. "You had some players out there hustling and I thought our communication was the first thing we talked about today, was hustle added with communication can really do some good things for our defensive play, and I think it was a big run -- 22-0 -- fueled by a lot of effort. There were a lot of young players on the court at that time hustling and doing a good job. The thing I liked most was their intensity." 

 

Kentucky led even though MSU had a better shooting percentage in the first 20 minutes. The Wildcats forced 16 first-half turnovers. 

 

In the second half, the Lady Bulldogs closed within 10 but could get no closer. 

 

MSU hit 23 of 48 shots from the field (47.9 percent), 6 of 15 shots from 3-point range (40 percent), and 8 of 12 shots from the free-throw line (66.7 percent). Kentucky hit 26 of 59 shots from the field (44.1 percent), 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent), and 14 of 21 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). 

 

Kentucky had a 35-26 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had eight assists and 22 turnovers, while the Lady Wildcats had 18 assists and 13 turnovers. 

 

Diamber Johnson paced the Lady Bulldogs with 20 points. MSU also received 16 points from Govero and 12 points from Catina Bett. 

 

"We''re learning, but I think that at any point or time in a game there can be a turnaround in how we play," Johnson said. "Like coach (Fanning-Otis) said, we know what we can do and we saw that in the second half, but we just have to get to a point where we can be more consistent and come with effort for 40 minutes. When we do that we can turn around and can make things happen in the league." 

 

Victoria Dunlap led Kentucky with 22 points and 10 rebounds). A''dia Mathies had 16 points, 13 points from Bernisha Pinkett had 13 points and O''Neill had 11. 

 

MSU will play host Auburn at 7 p.m. Thursday.

 

 

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