Mississippi St. 67, No. 22 Georgia 52

Mississippi State could have faltered when its leading scorer

went to the bench with four fouls and still almost 14 minutes left

to play.

Instead, that was when Mississippi State took advantage of its

balanced scoring.

Mississippi State pulled ahead with a 14-4 second-half run and

beat No. 22 Georgia 67-52 on Friday night to move closer to its

first Southeastern Conference tournament title.

Alexis Rack had 14 points to lead five players in double figures

for Mississippi State (19-11), which will play No. 19 Kentucky in

Saturday night’s second semifinal game. No. 4 Tennessee will face

Vanderbilt in the first semifinal.

Tysheka Grimes, who finished with 12 points, had 11 when she

picked up her fourth foul with 13:55 remaining.

“A lot of folks stepped up when we had the foul situation,”

Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said.

Grimes was called for her fourth foul less than a minute after

her 3-pointer gave her team its first lead of the second half at

33-32.

With Grimes on the bench, Mississippi State briefly lost the

lead on a basket by Georgia freshman Jasmine Hassell. Mississippi

State then took control by making three 3-pointers in a 17-4 run

for a 50-38 lead.

“There was a lot of opportunity for this team to fold, the foul

situation and other things,” Fanning-Otis said. “We just found a

way to stay together.”

Mary Kathryn Govero, who had 13 points, said defense set up the

decisive run.

“There was definitely a turning point in the game when we were

getting defensive stops,” Govero said. “We were knocking down

some shots, which gave us a lot of momentum and confidence to keep

hitting shots.”

Mississippi State has advanced to only one SEC tournament

championship game, falling to Tennessee in the 2000 final.

“We don’t necessarily talk about what Mississippi State hasn’t

done before, we just talk about what our goals as a team have been

all season and how we can’t look in the past,” Govero said.

Georgia (23-8) was the second straight ranked team to fall in

the tournament, following Vanderbilt’s win over No. 21 LSU earlier

on Friday.

Armelie Lumanu had 12 and Chanel Mokango added 11 for

Mississippi State.

Meredith Mitchell led Georgia with 15 points. Jasmine James had

10 points while making only 4 of 17 shots from the field. Ashley

Houts made only 3 of 12 shots for nine points.

Mississippi State’s No. 3 seed is its highest in the

tournament’s history. It is in the semifinals for the first time

since 2003, when it lost to Tennessee.

Georgia has won four SEC tournaments but none since 2001. It

suffered its second straight second-round loss.

Both teams struggled with poor shooting in the first half.

Georgia led 26-23 at the break despite making only 31 percent of

its shots (9 of 29) from the field. Mississippi State was even

worse at 25 percent (9 of 36).

Only Mississippi State enjoyed a second-half recovery, shooting

53.3 percent in the final 20 minutes while Georgia made 33.3

percent of its shots.

Rack was 0 for 7 from the field in the first half before making

5 of 8 in the second half.

“I think her pride probably kicked in at halftime,” Georgia

coach Andy Landers said. “She had a little bit more kick to her, a

little bit more attack mode.”

Lumanu left the game with an apparent injury to her left leg

with 1:14 remaining.