Focus keys Lady Bulldogs to win
By By Austin Bishop / EMG regional sports director
Jan. 13, 2002
Following Mississippi State's four-point road loss to South Carolina on Thursday, that's something MSU women's basketball coach Sharon Fanning was hoping her team would find.
The Bulldogs found enough of it on Sunday to take a thrilling 78-75 Southeastern Conference win over visiting Vanderbilt before a rowdy Humphrey Coliseum crowd of 1,805.
State led by as much as 18 points in Thursday's loss, but couldn't put the game away down the stretch.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs stepped up big in crucial situations time-after-time.
And while Fanning pointed to the win as a team effort, it was a trio of players LaToya Thomas, Tan White and Doceide Warren who made most of those big plays.
Thomas scored 28 points including 8-for-8 from the line and pulled down eight rebounds for the 12-3 Bulldogs, while White scored 19 points and had 10 rebounds.
Warren, a freshman from Dallas, had a basket, two free throws and a steal in the last 1:39 of the game on the way to a 13-point effort.
Fanning said she wouldn't have termed the Vanderbilt game as a must win, but agreed that it was an important victory for the Bulldogs.
Vanderbilt led most of the game, but neither team led by more than six points, with State's largest being four points at 76-72 with 50 seconds left in the game.
But, the Commodores wouldn't go away, as Hillary Hager knocked down a three-pointer nine seconds later to cut the MSU lead to one point.
Thomas then knocked down a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left to put the Bulldogs up by three.
Vanderbilt ran a set play and had a chance to tie the game when sophomore Abi Ramsey fired up a three-pointer with three seconds left. The ball banged off the rim and into the arms of a waiting Bulldog, sealing the victory for MSU.
There was a little controversy prior to Thomas' two key free throws with 12 seconds left. After the Bulldogs missed a shot, neither team could claim the rebound and the ball got loose on the floor, eventually being knocked out of bounds as Vandy and State players tumbled to the floor in front of the Mississippi State bench.
It was ruled that the ball went out of bounds off a Vanderbilt player, something the Commodores disagree with.
But McElhiney said it would be unfair to say the game was decided on that one call.
The game between the two teams ranked in the top 14 in the country by the Associated Press was tight throughout. The game was tied 11 times in the first 20 minutes including 40-40 at halftime and seven times in the second half.
Vanderbilt's 6-foot-6 center Chantelle Anderson was plagued with foul trouble and finally fouled out with 4:27 to go in the game.
The Commodores got a strong game out of 6-foot-3 junior forward Jenni Benningfield, who finished the game with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor and also pulled down a game high 15 rebounds.
McElhiney had 17 points, including a trio of three-pointers for Vandy, while Anderson scored 12.
The Bulldogs, now 1-1 in SEC play, have the week over before traveling to Oxford on Sunday to face Ole Miss.