By MATTHEW STEVENS
The season opener for the Mississippi State women’s basketball didn’t have the look or feel of a first game.
The Lady Bulldogs hung a Sweet 16 banner and then with nearly a completely new roster led from start to finish during an 87-53 victory Friday night.
Despite losing all but three players from the 2009 team that was responsible for that new banner, Mississippi State had only 10 turnovers (four in the first half) during a domination of a completely overmatched South Carolina Upstate program that gave up 34 points off 24 turnovers throughout the evening.
“It’s great to start a season 1-0,” Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. “When we can keep the turnover margin positive all that does is give us more looks at the basket.”
The Lady Bulldogs (1-0) were led by the scoring punch of their veteran guard Mary Kathryn Govero.
Govero, the only senior on the active roster for the Lady Bulldogs, set the bar high for game one by notching a career-high 28 points in 34 minutes on the floor.
“I didn’t even know so it’s great I guess,” Govero said when asked about her career-high point total.
Running the Bulldogs offense for most of the game was the perimeter duo of Diamber Johnson and Porsha Porter.
Johnson had all 11 of her points in the first half while Porter, a transfer after a junior college All-American season at Jefferson College, accounted for 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes.
Upstate (0-1), which was coming off a 20-win season last year, got 17 points from Atlantic Sun Conference preseason player of the year Chelsea McMillan.
“She scores when she gets her hands on the ball,” Fanning-Otis said “I don’t think we did a good enough job team-wise on her.”
Dating back to 1974, Mississippi State is now 35-2 in its home openers and hasn’t dropped its first game in Starkville since 1985.
The Lady Bulldogs defensive effort held the Spartans to 31 percent shooting from the field and 3-for-15 from beyond the three-point arc. The active perimeter lockdown was a big reason 2010 Atlantic Sun Conference Freshman of the Year Tee’Ara Copney was held to just 11 points in 36 minutes.
Katia May made the most of her collegiate debut for MSU Friday as the 5-foot-2 freshman ended with 13 points on 6-for-11 shooting and just two turnovers in 18 minutes of action.
After still recovering from two surgeries with the most recent one being the removal of half her lung do to an infection, center Danielle Rector of the Lady Bulldogs was able to provide seven points and five rebounds in just 15 minutes.
“My wind capacity was obviously cut in half so just getting that back has been definitely a challenge,” Rector said.
As MSU prepares for back-to-back road games at Tulane and South Alabama over the next two weeks, Fanning-Otis was still preaching to her team about the rebounding and free throw disparity in Friday night’s win.
“There’s some little things that we want to improve on and I feel like they’re listening, paying attention,” Fanning-Otis said. “The next week on the road is the next step. You’re playing an NCAA team and dealing with travel with all the readiness of a new team.”