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Thomas scores 30, Lady Dawgs down Golden Eagles

By Staff
HITTING THE BOARDS n Mississippi State forward Dana Benemon (40) fights for control of a rebound while Southern Mississippi forward Krystal Courtney (25) goes for the steal during the first half in Hattiesburg Tuesday. AP photo
By Richard Dark/The Meridian Star
Dec. 20, 2000
HATTIESBURG For Sharon Fanning's 19th-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs, it was simply a matter of holding on down the stretch.
Such was the case, as a big Lady Bulldog lead was whittled down to eight, but MSU (7-2) still went on to defeat the Southern Miss Lady Eagles 68-53 in front of a scattered crowd of 1,786 at Reed Green Coliseum.
USM (5-4) doomed itself with a poor start that saw them shoot just seven percent from the field at one point in the first half and fall behind by as much as 18, at 31-13 on a bucket by MSU center LaToya Thomas with 1:48 left in the first half.
Thomas, the SEC leading scorer as a freshman last season, led all scorers with 30 points.
The above may have been an understatement, as Reed's bunch, who wound up shooting a dismal 27.5 percent from the field, didn't break into double digits until Krystal Reeves nailed a three-pointer with 4:45 to go before the half to pull USM to within 25-11.
USM improved its shooting in the second half, but every time it looked as if they would embark on a run, Thomas had a answer.
A steal and layup by Angela Johnson, who paced USM with 14 points pulled the Lady Eagles to within 47-37 with 11:08 remaining before Thomas stole the ball and took it to the hole.
With 3:53 to play, Johnson drained a trey to inch the Lady Eagles to within nine, before Thomas responded with a stickback.
Less than a minute later, Johnson sank a pair of free throws to get her squad to 59-50, but with the Lady Bulldogs shooting free throws well, eight points was as close as they would get, when Krystal Courtney hit a three-ball at the 1:23 mark.
The Lady Bulldogs outsized USM and it showed on the stat sheet with a 42-28 rebounding advantage. Thomas grabbed 17 of those. It translated to an 11-6 margin in second chance points, with USM's coming in the latter stages.
Cynthia Hall chipped in for MSU with 10 points. USM forward Jessica Wood added 10 and six boards.
When the Lady Bulldogs did go to the free-throw line, they converted, hitting 10-of-12. USM sank 15-of-21.
Coming off a nine-day break, the Lady Eagles will get 11 more off before hosting Jackson State on Dec. 30. MSU, meanwhile, will travel to play the University of Albany on Dec. 27.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for the Meridian Star. Email him at rdark@themeridianstar.com.

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