STARKVILLE, Miss. - When things looked their darkest Sunday afternoon, the Mississippi State women’s basketball team found a way. Down by as many as 18 points in the second half, the Lady Bulldogs stormed back to stun in-state rival Ole Miss 69-64 in the Humphrey Coliseum.
The victory improved MSU to 13-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Meanwhile, Ole Miss slipped to 12-5 and 1-1. The teams played before a coliseum season-high of 3,173 -- the fifth largest crowd in school history.
Both coaching staffs credited the energized fan base for making a difference as MSU rallied in the closing minutes.
“The crowd today was the Mississippi State sixth man,” Ole Miss coach Renee Ladner said. “If there had been 300 people in the stands, the game would have ended much differently. We both have a chance to compete for the Southeastern Conference championship this season. Crowd support is so vitally important and it made a big difference today.”
MSU took its only lead of the opening half, at 8-6 on a Chanel Mokango jumper. Ole Miss then seized the momentum in the contest with a 15-0 run, which included a pair of 3-point basket by Bianca Thomas and a three-point play by Kayla Melson.
The lead then buoyed between five and 13 for the remainder of the half. Ole Miss held a 38-31 lead at halftime.
The Lady Rebels then stormed out of the second half gate with the first nine points of the final half. Thomas had eight of those 11 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers.
Ole Miss maintained the 18-point push, leading 55-37 before a stunning 32-9 run over the final 14:05 to close out business for MSU.
“I am very proud of this basketball team,” MSU coach Sharon Fanning said. “They found a way to come back and win the ballgame. In the second half, we talked about applying pressure and not giving up. We knew we could work back into the game if we did not lose our composure.
“The crowd played such a huge role in the ballgame. They made the difference tonight. We really needed a lift because things were not going our way. This is a very big win against a good team.”
The Lady Bulldogs full-court pressure defense forced six turnovers during that stretch. The Lady Rebels converted their last field goal of the game at the 9:39 mark (for a 60-44 lead). Ole Miss also used a pair of timeouts to save possession over the next two minutes. The Lady Rebels played the final 7:00 without a timeout.
Trailing 61-46, the Lady Bulldogs pieced together a 10-0 run. Then after UM’s Kayla Holloway hit one of two free throws, MSU reeled off 9-0 run for a 65-62 lead with 1:56 remaining.
For MSU, an Alexis Rack 3-pointer cut the deficit to 62-59. Diamber Johnson then hit a short jumper to bring the hosts within a single point. Johnson then stole the ball on the next UM possession and hit Rack for a fast-break layup and a 63-62 MSU lead.
With the majority of the coliseum crowd roaring its approval, MSU’s Chanel Mokango followed that up with three blocked shots on one possession. Seconds later, Rack hit a layup for a 65-62 lead. The junior guard then hit four free throws in the final 45 seconds to close out the victory.
Rack led MSU with 19 points, including a 3 for 10 night from 3-point range. Robin Porter added 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Armelie Lumanu scored 15 points and Mokango added 10 points.
For Ole Miss, Bianca Thomas scored career-high 25 points. Shawn Goff was also in double figures with 12 points.
The Lady Bulldogs were 28 of 63 from the field (44.4 percent), 4 of 16 from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 9 of 10 from the foul line (90.0 percent). The Lady Rebels were 22 of 57 from the field (38.6 percent), 7 of 18 from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 13 of 22 from the foul line (59.1 percent).
MSU held a 43-34 rebounding advantage. MSU had 12 assists and 17 turnovers, while UM had 15 assists and 17 turnovers.
MSU remains home for a Thursday night contest against 13th-ranked Tennessee. The Lady Bulldogs and Lady Vols tip off at 7 p.m. in the Humphrey Coliseum. That contest will be televised regionally by CSS. Ole Miss is off Thursday, before hosting Alabama at 2 p.m. next Sunday.