It was another tale of two halves, as Mississippi State ran past Kentucky in quarters three and four.
With Rhyne Howard in command and off to a blazing start, the Bulldogs quickly found themselves down by 12. Howard was in double figures with 11 points to end the first. Vic Schafer threw multiple defenders at Howard but had no answer, having taken out Jordan Danberry for Jayla Hemingway.
As Howard would take advantage of the substitution, Schaefer soon looked to 6-foot-6 center Yemiyah Morris to command the paint. Morris would do so and then some, as her presence kept the Wildcats outside. Morris posted a Double double with 11 points and 10 boards. She added a season high five blocks.
While the Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats 20-13 in the second, Chasity Patterson ended the first half with a go-ahead three pointer to put the Wildcats on top 35-32. Though momentum seemed to shift Kentucky’s way, Mississippi State was a different team come the second half.
Still in a back and forth, Mississippi State found its rhythm throughout the third, as Jordan Danberry drained a midrange jumper to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead with 1:12 left. Up 49-44, the Bulldogs were in control. But it was Aliyah Matharu’s corner triple to end the third that officially turned the tide, having put the Bulldogs in front 52-47 to start the fourth.
The Bulldogs were off and running offensively. Rickea Jackson recorded her second straight Double double that included a team leading 29 points along with 10 boards. Matharu would add 15 off the bench. While Danberry was a formidable scorer with 10 points, she embraced the role of facilitator, having posted seven assists. With Myah Taylor dictating pace, the Bulldogs simply outran the Wildcats.
As Mississippi State turned it up on offense, the Bulldogs imposed their will defensively. Throughout the second half, Danberry was in Howard’s head. While Howard had 17 first half points, Danberry and company held her to just nine in the second. Though Howard finished with 26 points, it would not be enough against the Bulldogs stout defense.
In what can be deemed a rivalry, Mississippi State will face top seeded South Carolina in tomorrow’s SEC Championship game.