STARKVILLE — Prior to Sunday’s matchup with Missouri, Mississippi State women’s basketball built some much-needed momentum.
After a string of losses, Nikki McCray-Penson’s team pieced together two consecutive victories, and hoped to expand on that heading into the postseason.
That all went out the window Sunday.
The Bulldogs were outplayed, outhustled and, frankly, embarrassed by the Tigers on their home court, getting blown out 77-57. It was the team’s second blowout loss on its home floor this season, but instead of powerhouse South Carolina, the drubbing came against a team that finished below the Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference standings.
“They came in here and just whipped us,” McCray-Penson said. “We were not the team that played the last two games. We have to go back to the drawing board and that’s pretty much all I can say on that end.”
From a big-picture perspective, this contest was relatively meaningless. Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game, the Bulldogs (10-8, 5-7 SEC) were locked into the No. 8 vs. No. 9 SEC tournament matchup against LSU. It’s likely MSU will still hear its name called on Selection Monday if it loses that rematch. But the “peaking at the right time” dream evaporated Sunday.
“You just have to regroup, regardless of the next opponent,” McCray-Penson said.
Against the Tigers, McCray-Penson elected to hold out two key cogs in the rotation, JaMya Mingo-Young and Rickea Jackson, for the entire first half. Both checked in only when the game was well out of hand in the third quarter. When asked the reason for their absence for the majority of the contest, McCray-Penson sidestepped the question and instead wanted to discuss MSU’s senior class.
“I just really want to focus on our seniors,” McCray-Penson said. “Obviously, we didn’t want to go out that way with them. That’s about all I’m going to say on that.”
MSU has two seniors listed on its roster, Caterrion Thompson and Yemiyah Morris, but redshirt junior Sidney Cooks was also honored in the team’s senior day festivities. In Saturday’s game, Cooks logged 25 minutes, Thompson was on the court for 20 and Morris played 9 minutes. Jackson scored six points in 11 minutes and Mingo-Young was held scoreless in her 8 minutes of action.
Missouri (9-10, 5-9) came out of the game hot, making six of its first nine 3-pointers en route to a 40-24 halftime lead. The Tigers outscored the Bulldogs 37-33 in the second half, with MSU never trimming the deficit to less than 12.
Missouri finished 12 of 30 from beyond the arc, while the Bulldogs couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting an abysmal 3 of 22 from long range and 40.7 percent from the floor.
Myah Taylor was the only Bulldog player in double figures, contributing 11 points on a 3-of-5 shooting effort. Shug Dickson had a game-high 16 points for Missouri.
MSU will face LSU at 10 a.m. Thursday in the first round of the SEC tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.
Hodge is the former sports editor for The Dispatch.
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