Johnson leads Lady Bulldogs to win
(FILE) â€“ MSU's Diamber Johnson scored 28 points against Tulane on Sunday. (Photo by Lee Adams, SDN)
Diamber Johnson strong start was something the Mississippi State Bulldogs needed Sunday afternoon against a quality basketball team.
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Johnson pushed Mississippi State to an early lead as she scored the first 10 points and the Lady Bulldogs defeated the Tulane Green Wave 70-55 for their fourth-straight victory.
Tulane switched to a full court press which contained Johnson for a while, but she still found a way to put up big numbers as she lead the Lady Bulldogs (7-1).
With Tulane (6-2) switching to the full court press that contained Johnson, she knew it would probably happen so she altered her play a little.
"I just stayed aggressive," said Johnson. "I started off like that and I knew something was going to change sooner or later, so I just started getting my team the ball more instead of being the enforcer."
Johnson had a flash back to last season where she started strong and then dropped off.
"The same thing happened last year where I started off strong and then I didn't score again," said Johnson. "I told myself this wasn't going to happen again, so I just thought payback, kept that mind set and went with it."
The senior guard led the Bulldogs with 28 points, which is just shy of her career high of 30 that she set earlier this season, and she believes she was more focused than she had been all season.
"I just came in with a different type of mindset," said Johnson. "I wasn't joking around like I normally do before games, and I just had my music going, I was completely focused and I was ready to get this win. I was just trying to go out and make a statement for our team."
MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, told Johnson while leaving the press room that she "had a different look in her eye today." The play of Johnson, isn't very surprising as this was her 33rd career game to score in double figures.
"Diamber has really done well with her offense," said Fanning-Otis. "Her toughness and how she communicates with her teammates is important."
Even though the Lady Bulldogs picked up the win against a Green Wave team that many believed should be a top 25 team, Johnson feels they could have won by more.
"If we would have finished stronger, this could have been an easy 25- to 30-point game," said Johnson. "At the end, we let loose a little bit."
One area where MSU didn't seem to let loose, was on the coverage of Tulane's Olivia Grayson, who came into Sunday's game averaging 12.6 points per game.
The Lady Bulldogs held Grayson to only three first-half points and she finished with only nine.
"We tried to stay between her and the basket," said Fanning-Otis. "She can go left or right and is able to pull up for a jump shot going either way, so you have to guard her hard. Our post players really helped when she got loose on ball screens and I felt like (Porsha) Porter did a really good job on her (Sunday)."
Defense wasn't the only thing Porter did well in the game as she also put up 14 points, but the surprise performance of the game had to go to Ashley Brown, who scored 11 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. However, Brown's play wasn't surprising to her teammate.
"She is very underrated and is a great player," said Johnson.
The win gives the Lady Bulldogs some momentum going into the week of finals.
"Tonight was a great team win," said Johnson. "We aren't where we want to be yet, but we are farther than what we were last year. I think we're OK right now but hopefully, we'll keep this up and finish the rest of the season strong."
Calling it a team win is very accurate as they had four players finish in double digit scoring, but the Lady Bulldogs will have a week between games due to final exams.
"We found a way to win tonight and I hope that this will carry us over into the exam period," said Fanning-Otis. "We are going to continue to grow and we have to continue to be a better team."
MSU will try to continue their growing next Sunday as the travel to Louisiana Tech.