STARKVILLE – A dominating first-half performance helped lift the Mississippi State women’s basketball team to an 81-63 victory over Savannah State Tuesday night in Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs won all four games on the homestand. MSU’s 5-0 start is the program’s best since the 2008-09 squad won its first 11 games.
MSU shot 51.7 percent from the field in the opening half and led 50-33 at halftime. Foul trouble and sloppy play made the Bulldogs attempt at separation hard to come by in the second half of play.
“I was disappointed in certain aspects of what we did tonight,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We had 22 turnovers against a zone defense is not good. They had 12 steals out of the zone. Our preparation was not good.
“We are fixing to depart for six-day road trip (at the Gulf Coast Classic) and I think the kids’ minds may have already been on the plane. We did enough things to get a good win and that is the bottom line.”
The Bulldogs used a 10-0 run to build a double-digit lead as the game approached the midway mark of the first half. A jumper by Dominique Dillingham ran the lead to 20-9 with 10:46 left in the half.
“It was a win but it was not one of our best wins,” MSU junior Kendra Grant said. “We are looking forward to the tournament. Coach talked to us about focus at the beginning of the game. It was important we found our focus and found a way to get the win.”
Dillingham finished the contest with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes of play.
“Dominique was really good tonight,” Schaefer said. “She had a great stat line for a freshman. She did all of that in 25 minutes of action. Jerica James also played very well. Grant had 19 (points) and eight (rebounds) and I don’t think she played particularly well. Kendra battled through foul trouble all night.
“Those are the expectations that we have for her.”
Two free throws by Grant ran the lead to 27-11 with 9:39 left before halftime. With a total of 36 fouls called in the opening half, each team had ample foul shot opportunities. The lead grew to 19 at 38-19 on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Dillingham.
Grant had 12 of her 19 points in the first half as the Bulldogs led 50-33 at the intermission.
“In the second half, Savannah State really competed,” Schaefer said. “They have been on the road for a while. They competed and played with spunk. They bounced back after a dismal first half. I didn’t think we really responded in the second half like we needed to, to put a good team away.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 24 of 63 shots from the field (38.1 percent), 5 of 8 shots from 3-point range (62.5 percent) and 28 of 33 shots from the foul line (84.8 percent). The Tigers hit 19 of 57 shots from the field (33.3 percent), 0 of 7 shots from 3-point range (0.0 percent) and 25 of 35 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent).
MSU held a 47-37 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 19 assists and 22 turnovers, while the Tigers had five assists and 25 turnovers.
For MSU, Grant and Dillingham were joined in double figures by Martha Alwal with 15 points and James with 10 points.
Savannah State (3-3) received 21 points from Ezinne Kalu and 17 points from Kenyata Hendrix.
The Bulldogs return to action Friday in the opening round of the Gulf Coast Classic. MSU will face Grand Canyon at 5 p.m. in Naples, Fla. The Lady Bulldogs will also play Saturday and Sunday to complete the event.
(From MSU Media Relations)