Tennessee guard Shekinna Stricklen (40) breaks away from Mississippi State center Catina Bett (34) during the second half of Thursday's game in Starkville. (Photo by Rogelio V. Solis, AP)
The Mississippi State Lady Bulldog basketball team was in the game for most of the first half against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Tennessee used a strong second half to beat the Lady Bulldogs for the 33rd-straight time with a 57-41 final Thursday night inside Humphrey Coliseum.
"I like the way we competed," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "We forced enough turnovers. I thought we scraped, but we missed some easy buckets."
The Lady Vols took an early 2-0 lead before MSU went on a 7-2 run to take a 7-4 lead. Tennessee answered with a 10-3 run of its own to take a 14-10 lead.
"It wasn't the prettiest game," Tennessee assistant head coach Holly Warlick said. "Both teams struggled in the first half but we found a way to win."
The Lady Vols ended the first half on a 8-0 run to take a 22-13 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"When you play for an extended period of time rotation is going to come into play," Fanning-Otis said of UT's run to end the half. "We didn't come up with a couple of possessions defensively that would have led to scores."
The Lady Vols opened the second half the same way they ended the first. They opened up on a 11-4 run to stretch their lead out to 33-17.
Mississippi State answered with a 14-4 run midway throughout the second half to pull within 10 points at 48-38.
Tennessee closed it down the stretch ending the game on a 9-3 run.
"We made a bucket and then we didn't bust it back down the floor and they made a layup," Fanning-Otis said.
The Lady Bulldogs went 5-for-34 from the field for 14.7 percent in the first half. Freshman guard Kendra Grant was 4-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point distance in the first half. She led MSU with 11 points in the first half.
"Anytime you make a shot, it puts a pep in your step," Fanning-Otis said. "The fact that she was ready to shoot was important. The fact that some of her shots were not 3-pointers was important."
The Lady Vols were 11-for-30 in the first half from the field for 36.7 percent.
Shekinna Stricklen led Tennessee with 22 points. Cierra Burdick added 10 points. UT improved to 19-7 for the year and 10-3 in the Southeastern Conference.
Mississippi State was led by Grant's season-high 17 points. Senior Porsha Porter added 15 points. The Lady Bulldogs dropped to 14-12 for the year and 4-9 in the SEC.
Senior Catina Bett fainted near the end of the game and did not return. Fanning-Otis said she was taken to the emergency room and that she was probably affected by dehydration.
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