9:00 PM ET, March 5, 2010
DULUTH, Ga. -- 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 Georgia (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) 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.
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