Sports Column: Bulldogs have more than one good team

By By Austin Bishop / EMG Regional Sports Director
Jan. 12, 2003
Scanning the Sunday sports scene while wondering whatever happened to Elston Turner …
There is a big college basketball game in Starkville today and it has nothing to do with Mario Austin, Rick Stansbury or Derrick Zimmerman.
It has a lot to do with LaToya Thomas, Sharon Fanning and Tan White.
The Lady Bulldogs of MSU play host to Vanderbilt at the Humphrey Coliseum in a big SEC showdown today at 2 p.m.
The two squads come into the game tied at No. 14 in the Associated Press poll. The Lady Bulldogs need to win the game to help take some of the sting out of a four-point loss to No. 13 South Carolina on the road on Thursday.
MSU led by as many as 18 points in the first half of that game.
While a lot of excitement has surrounded the men's basketball program, Fanning says she is hoping some of that leads to bigger crowds for the women's game.
Last season the Lady Bulldogs regularly drew between 1,500-2,000 for SEC games, including 5,157 for State's narrow 80-78 loss to Tennessee on Feb. 14. On Jan. 10 of last year, 3,023 came out to watch MSU down arch-rival Ole Miss 82-57.
Those were the second and third largest crowds for an MSU women's game all-time. The biggest came on Feb. 17, 2000 when 5,863 turned out to watch the Lady Vols of Tennessee beat State 79-75.
Mississippi State's women's basketball fortunes have turned around in recent years and the Lady Bulldogs have become very tough to beat at The Hump.
Beginning with the 1998-99 season, MSU has put together an impressive 48-12 home mark.
The Lady Bulldogs, coming off a 19-12 record and NCAA Tournament appearance last season, are currently 11-3 on the year. After today's Vandy game, things don't get any easier for MSU.
State closes out January by playing Ole Miss and Tennessee on the road and hosting Auburn and Alabama.
Just like the men's side of the league, the Southeastern Conference just doesn't have any soft touches.
She also pointed out that to play in a league like that you have to have some of the best players.
She did just that four years ago when she convinced Thomas, a high school All-American from Greenville, to sign with the Lady Bulldogs. Since that time Thomas as become a three-time All-American on the college level.
Two years ago Tupelo's Tan White, also a prep All-American, decided to join Thomas and Fanning in Starkville.
That's something Fanning has been able to do. Now she just wants to turn it into another trip to the NCAA Tournament and perhaps even a title at the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Little Rock, Ark., March 6-9.
Newton High School will be playing host to an interesting day of basketball on Saturday, Feb. 1 when the Tigers play host to the Rush Challenge.
There are several interesting matchups, but perhaps non more intriguing than the 6:30 p.m. game between the Newton High girls and the Lady Warriors of Choctaw Central. NHS beat CCHS earlier this season, so the Lady Warriors will probably come in looking for a little revenge, while the Lady Tigers will be out to defend their home court and prove that they are the better team.
The Choctaw Central boys and Newton boys play at 7:45 p.m., while Northeast Lauderdale and Meridian tangle in a boys game at 5:15 p.m.
The action begins at 11 a.m. with Scott Central facing Union. Other games set for the day are: Scott Central boys vs. Nanih Waiya, Bay Springs vs. Kemper County in boys and girls action, and Northeast Lauderdale and Nanih Waiya in a girls game.