Lady Bulldogs Roll Past Alabama In SEC Hoops

Diamber Johnson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Mississippi State handed Alabama its first loss in Foster Auditorium Thursday night. The Lady Bulldogs shot 50 percent in the first half and used a 13-0 run in the final half to cruise to a 68-55 Southeastern Conference women's basketball victory on the UA campus.

Constructed in the late 1930s, Foster Auditorium was the home of Alabama men's basketball in the 1960s. The gym was also the initial home of UA women's first basketball during its first season in 1975. A recent renovation of the building has seen it come into a new life as the 3,800-seat home of UA women's basketball and volleyball.

The opening of Foster was delayed until mid-season. Alabama beat Florida and Ole Miss in its new home before falling on senior night Thursday night.

With the victory, the Lady Bulldogs snapped a three-game losing streak. MSU improved to 11-16 overall and 3-12 in league play, while Alabama fell to 15-13 overall and 4-11. The Lady Bulldogs have won six of the past seven series meetings.

"We have been talking about putting two halves together," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "Sometimes when you take starters out, you lose continuity. Everybody tonight really contributed. It is a very big road win. Anytime you win on the road in this league, you have had a good night."

In the opening half, the Lady Bulldogs not only converted 13 of-26 shots from the field but also forced the Crimson Tide into 14 turnovers.

The Lady Bulldogs opened a 5-2 advantage on a 3-pointer by Mary Kathryn Govero. The Crimson Tide scored the next seven points of the game. Alabama held its largest lead at 9-5 on a 3-pointer by Ericka Russell with 15:51 left in the first half.

MSU answered with the game's next eight points. A layup by Porsha Porter placed the Lady Bulldogs on top for good. A steal by Darriel Gaynor and jumper by Catina Bett ran the advantage to 13-9. Minutes later, a basket by Diamber Johnson pushed the MSU lead to 20-14 with 11:26 left before halftime.

A pair of free throws by Danielle Rector ran the Maroon and White lead to 22-17. MSU would go the next 2:50 without scoring. However, the Crimson Tide only closed to within one during that stretch.

The Lady Bulldogs then had a spirited push on both ends of the floor to end the half. A 7-2 run over the final 3:59 pushed the Maroon and White out to a 34-25 advantage at the intermission.

"The first half was great," Fanning-Otis said. "At halftime, we talked about getting the stops needed to win on the road in this league. We had different players step up and make shots. We had different players make critical defensive stops. I am really proud of the effort and that we have stayed together and kept fighting hard."

The halftime lead marked the sixth straight contest that MSU has held a halftime lead. It is the eighth time in league play the Lady Bulldogs have held that position this season.

In the final half, a 3-point basket by Johnson ran the MSU lead to double digits for the first time with 18:37 remaining. Slightly more than two minutes later, the lead was pushed to 42-29 on a Govero trey.

A steal and layup by Johnson followed by back-to-back 3s from Govero and Rector extended the MSU run to 13-0. Defensively, MSU held Alabama 5:05 without a point during the run, while expanding the lead to 50-29.

Alabama brought the crowd of 2,114 back into the contest with a 15-2 run. A steal and layup by Tierney Jenkins brought the Crimson Tide within 52-44 with 8:20 left.

On the other end, Porsha Porter hit all three throws after drawing a foul on a 3-point shot attempt. Alabama then got a trey from Shafontaye Myers. However, the hosts missed on their next three shots to trim the eight-point deficit.

Alabama eventually found the range, scoring on back-to-back possessions to close within 57-52 with 4:13 left. The teams traded baskets before a back-breaking 3-point basket by Johnson created a 62-54 MSU lead with 2:02 left.

The Lady Bulldogs' superb defensive effort came despite heavy foul trouble. MSU was called for the first six fouls of the first half and first four fouls of the second half. Bett fouled out in the closing minutes, while Porter was slowed by four fouls, including three in the first half.

For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 24 off 44 shots from the field (54.5 percent), 9 of 19 shots from 3-point range (47.4 percent) and 11 of 17 shots from the foul line (64.7 percent). The Crimson Tide hit 20 of 62 shots from the field (32.3 percent), 4 of 17 shots from 3-point range (23.5 percent) and 11 of 21 shots from the foul line (52.4 percent).

Alabama held a 41-32 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 14 assists and 23 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had 10 assists and 21 turnovers.

Johnson paced the Lady Bulldogs with 22 points, while Govero scored 21 points. Rector was also in double figures with 10 points.

Alabama received a double-double from Jenkins (17 points, 17 rebounds). Russell also had 17 points.

The Lady Bulldogs close the 2010-11 regular season by hosting in-state rival Ole Miss Sunday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. from the Humphrey Coliseum. Govero, MSU's lone senior, will be honored in pre-game ceremonies Sunday.

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