DULUTH, Ga. - A 17-4 run midway through the second half lifted Mississippi State past No. 22 Georgia 67-52 Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament being played at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
The third-seeded Lady Bulldogs advance to the tournament's semifinal round for the third time in program history and first time since 2003. MSU faces second-seed Kentucky at 5 p.m. CT Saturday. The semifinal card also includes top-seed Tennessee and fifth-seed Vanderbilt at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday. Both semifinal games will be televised nationally by ESPNU.
M-State improved to 19-11 overall and also beat 23-8 Georgia for the second time this season. The Lady Bulldogs have won back-to-back games again the league's other pack of Bulldogs for the fourth time ever. This was MSU's second-ever win against Georgia in an SEC Tournament contest.
"In the second half, we talked about taking better care of the basketball," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "They out-rebounded us by one but we did a much better job on the boards. There were some key buckets and key plays in the games. We had some really great defensive stands."
The victory also strengthened the MSU NCAA Tournament resume. The Lady Bulldogs have now beaten 10 opponents ranked in the RPI-Top 100, including four wins against the Top 25. MSU has won five games against teams ranked in the national polls.
Friday's contest turned on the 17-4 run midway through the second half. Georgia held its last lead on a Jasmine Hassell layup with 13:40 left, That basket gave UGA a 34-33 lead. A 3-point basket by MSU's Mary Kathryn Govero capped the 17-4 run and gave the Maroon and White a 50-38 advantage with 8:27 remaining.
The Lady Bulldogs hit three of their six second-half 3-point baskets during that run. Govero drained two three's while Diamber Johnson also hit one.
Georgia drew within seven at 57-50 on an Angel Robinson layup with 3:52 left. MSU answered with the game's next seven points. Alexis Rack drained a critical 3-point basket as the shot clock expired for a 64-50 advantage.
"We found a way to stay together," Fanning-Otis said. "In the first half, we had some adversity and we did a good job of finding a way to overcome it. Our collective toughness was reflected in this game. We will need that toughness and even more against a very good Kentucky team."
In the opening half, both teams struggled from the field. The lead switched hands six times while neither team led by more than three points. MSU shot 25 percent from the field, while UGA fared slightly better, hitting 31 percent of its shots.
UGA eased into halftime with a 26-23 advantage.
For the contest, MSU hit 25 of 66 shots from the field (37.9 percent), 8 of 20 shots from 3-point range (40.0 percent) and 9 of 10 shots from the foul line (90.0 percent). UGA hit 21 of 65 shots from the field (32.3 percent), 4 of 20 shots from 3-point range (20.0 percent) and 6 of 9 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).
UGA held a 43-42 rebounding advantage. MSU had 14 assists and nine turnovers, while UGA had nine assists and 15 turnovers.
Rack finished with a team-high 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs - all in the second half. With her performance, Rack moved into third-place on the MSU all-time scoring charts with 1,041 points. Govero added 13 points, while Armelie Lumanu and Tysheka Grimes each scored 12 points and Chanel Mokango scored 11 points. Grimes had 11 rebounds, while Mokango had 10 boards. Rack had six assists, while Mokango had six blocked shots.
Georgia received 15 points from Meredith Mitchell and 10 points from Jasmine James. Angel Robinson had 11 rebounds and Porsha Phillips followed with 10 boards.