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By BEN WAIT
The Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs finished a game like coach Sharon Fanning-Otis wants Friday night.
Mississippi State used a strong second half to down in-state foe Southern Mississippi 71-57 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Leading 36-30 at halftime, the Lady Bulldogs came out on fire and opened the second half on a 16-6 run. They out-scored the Lady Eagles 35-27 in the second half and held them under 31 percent shooting for the half.
Fanning-Otis was glad to see her team come alive in the second half.
â€śWe reminded them that we had been through one situation,â€ť Fanning-Otis said of the halftime lead. â€śWe did a good job pressuring them defensively. Porsha Porter forced a lot of turnovers for us, although it was a team effort she had a lot to do with it. As a team, finding a way to have good defense is the key. It was great team win, and a great way to head into the Christmas break.â€ť
Porter led the way for MSU with a season-high 25 points. She has averaged 20.7 points in here last three games and it showed last night. She made three of four 3-pointers and eight of 10 two-pointers. She also went 6-for-8 at the free-throw line and pulled down nine rebounds.
â€śI was just bringing energy to the team,â€ť Porter said. â€śDiamber (Johnson) had an off night so I had to step up. I shot poorly last game so I got in the gym and worked on free throws. Â It paid off in tonightâ€™s game.
Fanning-Otis was glad to see Porter step up and lead the team, but she wants to get her entire team involved and contributing.
â€śI am emphasizing five players in double figures because youâ€™re hard to guard,â€ť Fanning-Otis said. â€śIf you have two people scoring 15 or 20. it's easy for other teams to stop.â€ť
Johnson has been the go-to player all year for the Lady Bulldogs, but it was her teammates who stepped up to lead the way. She knows her teammates are capable of doing this night-in and night-out.
â€śEven if itâ€™s not my night, what Porsha did tonight is what she is capable of doing every night,â€ť Johnson said. â€śWhat Kendra (Grant) did is what Kendra can do every night. Seeing this tonight is going to help us.â€ť
The Lady Bulldogs opened the game on a 15-1 run behind Grantâ€™s quick eight points. She ended the night with a season-high 13 points.
â€śIt felt right those first 8 minutes,â€ť Grant said. â€śI was in the right spot at the right time. I needed to make sure I am in those same spots the entire game.â€ť
Lady Eagle head coach Joye Lee-McNelisâ€™ team was not ready and she saw that in the early going.
â€śFifteen to one to start the game,â€ť said Lee-McNelis, who saw her team fall to 3-6. â€śWe were not ready to start. We had six turnovers in the first few minutes of the game. We were all out of wack and could not make a change. We needed mental preparation.â€ť
The Lady Eagles went to a full-court press early in the first half to offset the Lady Bulldogâ€™s run.
Johnson was proud of the way her team handled it but felt they put themselves in bad situations.
â€śWe handled it OK,â€ť Johnson said. â€śThe turnovers we caused ourselves when we rushed. They werenâ€™t forced turnovers. We have to be patient and not freak out and take our time and break the press.â€ť
The Lady Bulldogs never trailed and stretched their biggest lead to 26 points late in the second half.
Building on this run is something Fanning-Otis hopes happens with her team down the stretch.
â€śI want to build on 26 and I want to put that away,â€ť Fanning-Otis said. â€śHowever if I look down the stretch, there were four freshmen on the floor at that particular point.â€ť
MSU, who improved to 8-2, will be back in action Monday night when they host Louisiana Lafayette at 7 p.m. They are coached by former Lady Bulldog assistant Errol Rogers.