MSU bolsters hopes for NCAA tournament


Adam Minichino



STARKVILLE - The result never was in doubt. 




The Mississippi State women''s basketball team earned another all-important victory to bolster its NCAA tournament hopes Thursday night with a 97-33 victory against Savannah State at Humphrey Coliseum. 




The Lady Bulldogs (16-5) set seven team highs and set or matched 10 individual marks in the blowout. 




That was to be expected. 




The unexpected that came out of the victory could be more important. 




Tysheka Grimes and Mary Kathryn Govero rebounded from slumps to score 15 and 12 points, respectively, to help MSU regroup from a Southeastern Conference loss to Arkansas on Sunday. 




Grimes'' and Govero''s efforts were part of a performance that put six players in double figures, led by senior forward Robin Porter (16 points). 




Grimes'' and Govero''s performances were most important, though, because both are complementary players who help take pressure away from primary scoring options like Porter, junior guard Alexis Rack (11 points, career-high 12 assists Thursday), junior guard Armelie Lumanu (14 points), and junior center Chanel Mokango (10 points, four blocked shots). 




"Tonight was good because when you haven''t been as consistent as you want to be, it is good to have a game where you are hitting your shots and, hopefully, keep that going into the next game," Govero said. 




The sophomore guard entered the game on a 9-for-35 shooting skid in the previous seven games. Govero had 11 points in a key road victory at Kentucky, but she scored 13 points in the other six games. 




As a result, her confidence started to wane and it appeared as if most of the shots she was taking were going in and coming out. 




"Coach just told me that shooters keep shooting. If it is a good shot, it is going to fall," Govero said. 




Govero said she has tried to get to practice early so she can get some extra shooting in. The time before practice apparently helped Govero locate a sweet spot on the rim. 




Govero''s took MSU''s initial shot of the second half and watched as it kicked high off the back rim and then fell straight through the net. 




"I guess when they''re falling you seem to hit ones like that," Govero said. 




MSU coach Sharon Fanning said Govero is going to see more pressure and a little different kind of pressure Sunday when MSU returns to SEC play at Georgia, and for the remainder of the season. She said Govero, who is shooting a hair under 39 percent for the season after her 5-for-7 effort Thursday night, has to relax and to play. 




"She has to step up and know she can knock those shots down," Fanning said. 




Grimes showed Thursday she might need to talk to herself a little bit more for her self-confidence to kick in. 




The junior forward had scored only 13 points (4-for-24 shooting) in the past five games. She admitted she didn''t talk much in that stretch and, as a result, her shooting and performances slipped. 




On Thursday, Grimes said her attitude was like any other game but she was more vocal. On one 3-pointer from the left wing, Grimes could be heard saying to herself "C''mon Tysheka" as she released the ball. 




The shot went in, so Grimes might need to pump up the volume from here on out. 




"I didn''t think it was enough," Grimes said. "I talk to myself a lot. It is something that just keeps me going." 




Grimes said her tendency for talking on the court has earned her the nickname "bipolar." Grimes said she is not bipolar (a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally) despite Rack jokingly insisting she is. 




"It started in shootaround today," Grimes said. "I was talking to myself a lot, and maybe I was a little more focused than what I am on other days." 




Fanning said Grimes can do whatever she needs to do if it helps her continue to play like she did Thursday night. 




"Tysheka is just going to talk," Fanning said. "The main thing I am really trying to emphasize to her, and I talked to her on the bench tonight, is thinking positives. If you''re talking to yourself, it is negative about yourself or somebody else and it is not going to help you. Go out there and have fun and be positive and keep pushing yourself up." 




Fanning hopes Govero, Grimes, and the entire team can build off the victory. But she knows things will be dramatically different the rest of the season, so she said the Lady Bulldogs have to be tough and ready to respond when they''re challenged. 




"Hopefully MKat and everybody else steps up," Fanning said. "I know they have to believe in themselves first before anybody else is going to believe in them. You have to expect it out of yourself and then other people will see that confidence and pick up on it as well." 




n NOTES: MSU set team marks for most field goals, 40; most 3-pointers, 12; most rebounds, 52; biggest rebounding margin, 25; most assists, 29; best field goal percentage, 57.1 percent; and six players in double figures. ... The Lady Bulldogs'' 5-for-15 effort from the free-throw line was their poorest percentage (33.3 percent) of the season. ... MSU also matched or set 10 individual marks. Porter matched a season-high with three assists and three steals, Rack had a career-high 12 assists and matched her season low with one turnover, Grimes had a season-high eight rebounds, Lauren Roberts had season highs with five rebounds, three assists, three steals, and one blocked shot, and Channa Campbell matched her season high with one rebound. ... Savannah State allowed its second most points this season. It allowed 103 in a loss to UTEP on Nov. 22. The game also was the second time this season the Lady Tigers didn''t make a 3-pointer. They also tied their mark for fewest assists (three) in a game this season.


Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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