By DANNY P. SMITH
It was a good day to be an Ashley at Humphrey Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
Juniors Ashley Brown and Ashley Newsome contributed in a big way to Mississippi State's 66-60 victory against the North Texas Mean Green.
Brown had a double-double for the Lady Bulldogs with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Newsome added 10 points and seven rebounds in just her third game after finishing the volleyball season.
After having just played a combined total of 6 minutes in two games, Newsome registered 19 minutes against North Texas.
It was something Newsome wasn't expecting going into the game even though she gained confidence during shoot-around.
"I was not imagining that," Newsome said of her minutes. "(The coaches) said I may get a couple of more minutes, maybe two or three, and I thought OK. I was proud of myself.
"I got in early and shot around. After I made my first shot, I got more and more confident in myself."
It was a very satisfying result for Newsome after having joined the team only seven days ago.
With that to consider, MSU coach Sharon-Fanning Otis likes the prospects of the future.
"I heard Ms. Newsome say that I've only been playing seven days of basketball, but if the next seven days are as good as the first seven on improvement, then we'll have something," Fanning-Otis said. "(Her playing time) has been limited with the games we've had. She's come in for a couple of times to shoot, but just hasn't been a lot of practice time yet. We've thrown so much at her that it's amazing."
Newsome has made the adjustment from volleyball to basketball well in her mind and looks forward to making further progress.
"It's very encouraging, especially going from one sport to another, and only having like less than a week to play," Newsome said. "I've been getting in on a lot more plays and have been trying to focus more on things like picking and rolling and trying to make sure I play my part, rolling hard to the basket and rebounding.
"It's been a challenge, but I've been working hard and my teammates have been helping me."
Brown said it helped her game to have Newsome doing the things she did against North Texas.
"She was rebounding," Brown exclaimed. "It helped for someone else to get some putbacks. She helped us a lot on the boards, offensively too and on defense."
Fanning-Otis said it was a total team effort for the Lady Bulldogs (4-2) against the Mean Green.
Along with the contributions of Newsome and Brown, junior guard Diamber Johnson added 14 points for MSU and freshman point guard Katia May chipped in eight points and four assists. Brown also had three steals.
"There was a lot of contribution off the bench and a lot of contribution from starters," Fanning-Otis said. "Hopefully, we see the game better together, learn to read and react better and will carry over to the next game."
Brown hit a jumper with 8:09 remaining in the second half against North Texas to tie the game at 47-47, then she had a layup in the paint to put the Lady Bulldogs up 49-47. MSU did not trail again in the game.
Fanning-Otis expects Brown's game to keep improving as she gains experience.
"The more understanding you have and the more you play, it's a matter of being able to step back, regroup and she's maturing," Fanning-Otis said. "That's going to be important because the two games she was in foul trouble, we haven't been as successful as a team. We need that energy and effort. The more she learns the system and plays with teammates, the better basketball team we're going to be."
The play of Brown, Newsome and others will be important for MSU to help senior Mary Kathryn Govero produce.
Govero, who severely turned her ankle in Wednesday's game against Louisiana Tech, played 37 minutes against the Mean Green, but only had five points.
"Even though she didn't shoot like she usually shoots, it seems like the same M-Kat out there to me," Brown said. "It didn't seem like anything was wrong with her."
Govero did appear to limp at times in the second half, but Fanning-Otis said she may have to play on a sore ankle for the remainder of the season.
"It's something where she could have something done at the end of the year, but it's not anything you can correct right now without her missing a lot so she's going to tape it, hope and pray she doesn't turn it," Fanning-Otis said. "She was tough to be out there. We didn't know if she could play. She definitely couldn't step the way she needed to or cut. They are going to box in one and triangle and two people, it's going to be harder for her to get shots. She helped us win a ballgame even though she was definitely not her real self as far as being full speed."
Govero and the rest of the Lady Bulldogs will get a break from game competition until they host Utah next Saturday at 4 p.m. as part of a doubleheader with the men's team.