Lady Bulldogs Fall To #10 Kentucky In Regular Season Closer
The Lady Bulldogs were playing the final regular season game under the direction of head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis, who announced her retirement Monday. Fanning-Otis guided MSU to 11 postseason appearances in her 17 seasons as head coach.
"This was an emotional day for me because I was a part of lot of the memories she had here," MSU senior guard Diamber Johnson said. "This has been a great experience. We have always brought energy. We have always played hard, even when we were up against really good opponents. That has been the trademark of this program."
The Lady Bulldogs finish the regular season at 14-15 overall and 4-12 in league play. Kentucky clinched the overall SEC regular season championship for the first time in 30 years. The 10th-ranked Wildcats improved to 24-5 overall and 13-3 in league play.
MSU will enter the SEC Tournament as the No. 10 seed. The Lady Bulldogs will play No. 7 Vanderbilt in a first-round game 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn. The contest will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net.
"We enter the tournament with a lot of confidence," Johnson said. "We feel like we can play with anybody in the league. We hope to go in there and shake some things up."
On Sunday, the Lady Bulldogs said good-bye to six seniors in pre-game ceremonies. Fanning-Otis was honored with a postgame video tribute, which moved the 36-year head coaching veteran to tears. A reception in her honor was held postgame in the Mize Pavilion.
"I am thankful for so many memories," Fanning-Otis said. "I feel blessed to have had this opportunity. The players who have worn this jersey have represented this university and this state in a fine fashion. This season's not over, but I am looking forward to being the program's biggest supporter in the future."
The Wildcats used their frantic full-court pressure to force a season-worst 33 turnovers by the Lady Bulldogs. Kentucky built on an early 8-7 advantage by scoring the game's next 11 points.
A follow-up 10-0 run allowed the guests to take a commanding 29-10 advantage with 4:28 left in the half. The Lady Bulldogs shot 22.2 percent from the field in the opening half and trailed 41-17 at halftime.
"Kentucky is a good team and they are really good at what they do," MSU senior guard Porsha Porter. "What separates Kentucky is they play with that type of effort for 40 minutes. They guard you hard on every possession. That is how they practice and that is how they played."
A 9-2 run to start the second half pushed Kentucky to a 30-plus point advantage in the early stages of the game's final half.
For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 14 of 53 shots attempts from the field (26.4 percent), 2 of 8 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 10 of 16 shots from the foul line (62.5 percent). The Wildcats hit 27 of 67 shots from the field (40.3 percent), 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 15 of 22 shots from the foul line (68.2 percent).
The teams were even at 42 on rebounds. MSU had nine assists and 33 turnovers, while UK had 10 assists and 16 turnovers.
Kendra Grant paced MSU with nine points, while Johnson and Porter each had eight points in their final game.
Kentucky received 13 points from A'dia Mathies and Bernisha Pinkett, while Samarie Walker had a game-high 10 rebounds.