February 27, 2010 11:12:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Tysheka Grimes hopes she will be able to make her homecoming special for the Mississippi State women''s basketball team.
Grimes, who is from Baton Rouge, La., will lead the Lady Bulldogs against LSU at 2 p.m. today in the Southeastern Conference regular-season finale for both teams.
The game is one of a handful of SEC matchups that will set the pairings for the SEC Tournament on March 4-7 in Duluth, Ga.
With a victory, MSU (18-10, 9-6 SEC) will clinch the No. 3 seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
A loss by MSU would make things very interesting. The Lady Tigers (19-8, 8-7) would earn the tiebreaker on the Lady Bulldogs and give them an opportunity to secure a top-four finish.
The results of today''s other games between South Carolina and Vanderbilt (9-6) and Georgia (8-7) and Arkansas will determine which teams receive byes.
A MSU loss and victories by Vanderbilt and Georgia would drop MSU to the No. 6 seed. A MSU loss with a Vanderbilt win and a Georgia loss would give MSU the No. 5 seed. A MSU loss with a Vanderbilt loss and a Georgia win would give MSU the No. 3 seed. A MSU loss with losses by Vanderbilt and Georgia would give MSU the No. 4 seed.
It remains to be seen if all of that will by flying around in Grimes'' head or if it will affect the Lady Bulldogs, but Grimes will try to do what she does best: Bring energy to the floor in a variety of ways. Whether it is grabbing rebounds with abandon, shooting from 3-point range or taking a defender on the block, the return of the 6-foot forward has added a valuable dimension to the lineup.
Grimes missed the first 10 SEC games with a tear of the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissue along the sole of the foot. MSU went 6-4 in those games but missed the enthusiasm Grimes brings to the court. She also is one of few players on the team who can create her own shot on the perimeter and inside.
"I do feel more comfortable with my foot, but it has been better for the last couple of games," Grimes said. "Right now is clutch time and everybody is hungry, including us, so it is just time to eat."
Grimes showcased the variety in her game Thursday with a 16-point performance in a 71-47 victory against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. She drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key off a pass from Alexis Rack and then scored on a layup off a pass from Armelie Lumanu as part of a 10-0 run to open the second half.
Later in the second half, Grimes connected on a turnaround jump shot in the post. On the other end, she tried to take a charge in the middle of the lane. She absorbed the contact and while falling she tipped the ball to a teammate to start a fast break that Lumanu finished with a three-point play.
Grimes said her move from a three (small forward) to a four (power forward) has meant more work with assistant coach Greg Franklin on post moves. She said she was comfortable playing on the block in high school and is adept at going to her right or to her left in the paint to create a shot.
"I like my left hand better than my right one," Grimes said. "I still can use my right hand. It just helps us to win. I just want to do what I can to help the team win."
The 16 points pushed Grimes (1,019 points) closer to Robin Porter (16th, 1,041 career points) on the school''s all-time scoring list. Grimes eclipsed the 1,000-point mark last Sunday in a disappointing 50-36 loss to Auburn on Senior Day.
"(Scoring 1,000 career points) is a big accomplishment for me, and I am proud of myself and the things I have accomplished here," Grimes said. "I am also proud of the team and what we have been able to accomplish. I am just trying to look at the bigger picture. I will probably reflect on that later."
Even on a lackluster day against Auburn, Grimes delivered one of the Lady Bulldogs'' better efforts with eight points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
MSU coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said Grimes'' versatility allows the Lady Bulldogs to try to exploit matchups problems in the frontcourt.
Junior guard Mary Kathryn Govero, who had a game-high 20 points against Alabama, said Grimes'' play is key, especially now when energy and intensity are so crucial to helping the Lady Bulldogs earn a second consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament.
"Ty is a very emotional person and always brings a lot of energy into any atmosphere she steps into," Govero said. "She was a big factor in getting us energized (Thursday) in the locker room and in the warmups and in shootaround. She brought that energy to the game and got off to a good start, which sparked us to get on a roll."
The only negative in the game came when Grimes took an elbow just above her right eye. The blow forced her to miss the final 10-plus minutes and required stitches after the game.
Grimes said Saturday she handled the stitches pretty well and that she is eager to do anything she can today to help the Lady Bulldogs lock up the No. 3 seed for the SEC Tournament.
More importantly, Grimes hopes the emotion she plays with affects her teammates and makes them hungry, too. She said it will be even more special to deliver that performance in front of her friends and family today.
"It means a lot," Grimes said. "For them to experience it in this crucial time of my life with me is very motivational, but I just have to stay focused."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.