By MATTHEW STEVENS
The opening words of Mississippi State’s play-by-play announcer Bart Gregory during the radio postgame show accurately paints the picture of Thursday night’s home loss to Alabama.
“Well, that one hurts.”
In a battle of two teams winless in conference play, Mississippi State looked defeated from the opening tip and was unable to counter Alabama’s full-court pressure defense in the Crimson Tide’s 66-61 victory.
“The ballgame can be had right there if everyone would step up and play with the relentless effort needed to compete in this league,” Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said.
Mississippi State (8-13, 0-9 in Southeastern Conference play) committed 21 turnovers, the most in a home game this season, that consistently led to easy baskets for Alabama and allowed the road team to build a 19-6 lead shortly after the second media timeout.
“It’s a major letdown tonight,” State junior guard Diamber Johnson said. “I guess we thought this game would be a little more easier than it was. Maybe that was our major problem.”
Against the team ranked next-to-last in the league in scoring defense, Mississippi State nearly failed to reach the 60-point mark again in the 2010-11 season. If not for a inconsequential lay-up by Porsha Porter as the horn sounded, State would have not scored more than 60 points in a game for the ninth-consecutive contest.
“Defensively, I thought we did a good job tonight,” Alabama head coach Wendell Hudson said. “Against a team that has quality jump shooters, I didn’t think we gave them many open looks.”
Porter led all scorers with a career-high 30 points as the Chicago native hit 10-of-17 from the field and was a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line but also committed her second-highest amount of turnovers with seven.
Porter was the only Mississippi State player to earn more than 10 points. If you’d take the junior’s numbers away, MSU was 11-of-41 from the field.
The Mississippi State point guard combination of Porter and Katia May totaled 11 turnovers and just two assists for the evening.
Alabama, which had lost nine of its last 11 games to the Lady Bulldogs before Thursday night, got double-double efforts from their forward duo of Tierney Jenkins and Kaneisha Horn.
Jenkins led the Crimson Tide (12-11, 1-9) with 17 points and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Horn had seven of Alabama’s 17 offensive rebounds.
Down 16 with less than 8 minutes to go, Mississippi State went on a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to four with a minute to go but Alabama’s Ericka Russell nailed an open three-point shot to seal the Tide’s first road victory since Dec. 28 at Southern Mississippi.
“We didn’t want her hesitating because the big one she made for us was one she shot with confidence at a time we had to have that shot,” Hudson said.
Mississippi State will travel to Auburn Sunday in the hope of avenging the Tigers’ 45-41 victory at Humphrey Coliseum on Jan. 20.