ATHENS, Ga. - No. 12 Mississippi State handed Georgia its first loss of the season in a 69-62 victory on the road at Stegeman Coliseum on Thursday night.
“I’m really thankful that we were able to finish our year off with a win going into the new season,” said head coach Nikki McCray-Penson after her first win in conference play. “When I look back over this game, we had talked about a couple of things that needed to take place. Transition defense, I thought we had to give up some stuff to take away what they really do well. They only scored six points in transition. That was key for us. When we got in the half court, we knew they were a team that liked to get points in the paint, so we wanted to limit that. At the end of the day, we needed to have more points than them in the paint, which is what we did.”
MSU (6-1, 1-0 SEC) slowed down Georgia’s offense by holding the Lady Bulldogs (8-1, 0-1 SEC) to just 33-percent shooting for the game. The win gave State its sixth-straight victory in the series. Offensively, Mississippi State shot 46 percent from the field and 21-of-29 from the charity stripe.
Freshman Madison Hayes finished with a season-high 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting, three rebounds and one assists off the bench. Jessika Carter fueled the Bulldogs during the second half, when she scored 10 of her 13 points, to go along with five rebounds. Rickea Jackson added 11 points to round out the double-figure scorers.
“Madison was very calm and cool,” said McCray-Penson. “I saw her this morning and told her to just have fun and enjoy the moment. I’ve said that she’s a player that has been very intangible for us. She’s really listening and really growing. As our team is listening and growing, it was really good for her to step into this environment and be calm while hitting some big shots for us and also rebound the ball for us.”
JaMya Mingo-Young finished with seven points, six assists, three boards and two steals, while Sidney Cooks, Aliyah Matharu and Myah Taylor all chipped in eight points each.
After a quick scoring spurt to begin the game, State’s offense had a slow start in the first quarter. MSU shot 5-of-15 from the field and only had one basket in the final four minutes. Georgia ended the period on a 6-0 run to take a 16-14 lead.
Mississippi State executed on both ends of the court in the second stanza, shooting 66 percent from the floor and holding UGA to just one basket in the final five minutes of the frame. Matharu provided a spark off the bench with six points, while Jackson knocked down a pair of timely shots during an 8-2 run for MSU to start the quarter. State entered halftime with a 28-24 advantage.
A strong effort by Carter, who missed most of the first half due to foul trouble, helped MSU extend its lead to double digits in the third quarter. The junior forward had eight points in the period and took three big charges to help fuel the Maroon and White on both ends of the floor. Hayes had five points to spark the offense and helped State take a 49-38 lead going into the final frame.
Georgia wouldn’t go away quietly, pulling within six points with 1:28 to go in the fourth quarter. UGA was aggressive on offense and found success as the charity stripe, shooting 13-of-16 from the line during the stanza. State didn’t have a basket in the final 7:43 in the game but knocked down 15 shots from free throw line, including eight in the last 1:16, to close out the game and seal the victory.
Up next, the Bulldogs return home for a 12 p.m. matchup against No. 13 Kentucky at Humphrey Coliseum on Sunday, Jan. 3. The contest was initially scheduled for Jan. 24, but the game was moved up by the league office. State was originally slated to play Vanderbilt, but the game was postponed due to COVID concerns in the Commodores program. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 can streamed on the MSU Radio Network.