• 52°

Record-setting Thomas nets 34, MSU moving on

[03/16/01] STARKVILLE Cynthia Hall will get at least one more chance to become Mississippi State’s all-time 3-point shooter, thanks to LaToya Thomas’ record-setting night.

Thomas scored 34 points, giving the sophomore a single-season MSU record of 708, as the Lady Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech, 77-73, Thursday in the first round of the WNIT.

MSU (16-13) will play at Illinois, a 96-79 winner over Wisconsin-Green Bay, in the second round on Saturday.

Hall, who starred at Vicksburg High, missed all three of her 3-point attempts, leaving her tied at 142 with LaCharlotte Smith for the MSU record.

She did, however, pass Smith on the all-time list for games played. Her 118th game in maroon and white was the first home postseason win in Lady Bulldog history.

And better yet, it extends her career.

“We’re not ready to put up our shoes yet,” said Hall, who had seven points, four rebounds and two steals in what may have been her final game at Humphrey Coliseum.

Neither were the Lady Jackets (14-15), a team MSU beat by 20 in December.

After trailing by double digits midway through the second half, Tech cut it to one on Niesha Butler’s nifty driving layup with just over two minutes remaining. State, which hit 11 of 13 free throws in the second half, went back up by six.

But Milli Martinez, who led Tech with 21, hit a 3 with 18 seconds left to make it 74-71. After Jennifer Fambrough hit 1 of 1 from the line, Butler missed a 3-point attempt with 4.3 seconds left, but drew a foul on Thomas. She hit the first two and intentionally missed the third, but the ball was awarded to MSU because Butler didn’t hit the rim.

Every time the Lady Jackets got within a basket, Thomas scored. She also grabbed several key rebounds down the stretch, finishing with a game-high 11.

“We were at a mismatch to begin with because we don’t have an All-American,” said Tech coach Agnus Berenato, whose post players fouled out.

Sonja Mallory, a 6-foot-4 sophomore, and Tamika Boatner were whistled for their fifth fouls at 4:36 and 2:40, respectively. Thomas scored six points in the final two minutes.

Fambrough finished with 13 points and seven rebounds and Keisha Stringfellow chipped in nine points.

For Tech, Butler scored 18, Jaime Kruppa had 16 and Nina Barlin added 10.

Near the end of the first half, Hall had a steal and breakaway and a rebound and quick outlet pass to Thomas for an uncontested layup as MSU took a 38-33 lead into the locker room.

“I don’t really think about the record,” said Hall, The Vicksburg Post’s player of the year in 1997. “Tonight, I was focused on penetrating.”

Last season, the cat-quick 5-foot-6 slasher hit a school-record 82 3-pointers. This season, after switching to point guard, she has only 28.

But the reduced scoring role doesn’t bother Hall, even though it may hurt her chances at playing professionally.

“She’s real selfless,” said Meadow Overstreet, who took over at shooting guard. “If she was asked to play the post, she’d do it.”

MSU coach Sharon Fanning said WNBA scouts started taking notice of Hall during the Southeastern Conference Tournament last year.

“She attracted more attention at the two-(guard),” Fanning admitted.

“I think she’ll still get a shot, though.”

Playing in the postseason will still help Hall get more exposure, even in the WNIT, Fanning added.

“If you look at the teams in this tournament … we’re playing in a very strong field,” she said. “She’ll get recognition if we keep winning.”