Bulldogs get back on winning track against Alabama

Kendra Grant

Kendra Grant

STARKVILLE – Mississippi State made its way back into the win column in women’s basketball action Sunday afternoon.

Behind a season-high 17 points from Kendra Grant and 12 points from Morgan William, No. 15/18 MSU held Alabama to 30.2 percent shooting from the field while posting a 66-50 victory in a “We Back Pat” Southeastern Conference contest played before 4,557 at the Humphrey Coliseum.

Sunday’s crowd was the eighth largest in school history, and the fifth time this season MSU has recorded one of the Top 10 crowds in school history. It was also the first time in program annals that State has recorded back-to-back crowds of 4,500-plus.

“We are so appreciative of the fans and numbers that we are getting,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. “We are meeting people every day who would go to football and baseball games and now they are going to women’s basketball games. Our ladies deserve the support they are getting. I think they represent the name on the front as well as they represent the name on the back.”

MSU snapped its two-game losing streak while improving to 19-2 overall and 4-2 in conference play, the best league start since 2002-03. Alabama fell to 11-9 and 0-5. The teams will play again February 22 in Tuscaloosa.

“We are struggling offensively right now,” Schaefer said. “We are having a tough time putting together stretches of great offensively play. Defensively, I have no complaints. We simply are struggling on offense. I think we have some good offensive weapons. We have to figure that part out.

“I am really proud of our kids. We made some stops late in the game. (Alabama) had some empty possessions. It’s a W. In this league, we will take them. Winning can mask a lot of issues. In this league, those issues can get exposed. So we have to work hard at continuing to get better.”

Mississippi State took the lead for good with a 7-0 run midway through the first half. A 3-pointer by Victoria Vivians capped the run and ran the MSU lead to 14-9 with 12:18 left in the half. The strong offensive play continued early as the Maroon and White stretched the lead to a 10-point advantage at 20-10 with 9:24 left on two free throws by Dominique Dillingham.

A 3-pointer by Grant, who recorded No. 100 for her career and moved into 10th in school history, pushed the lead to 25-12. The Bulldogs then took their largest lead of the game at 29-15 on two free throws by Savannah Carter with 6:36 left before halftime.

MSU shot 46.4 percent from the field in the opening half and led 37-27 at the intermission.

“We didn’t play well (on defense) against LSU and Vanderbilt, so that was a big focus,” Dillingham said. “We worked hard to keep the ball in front of us and made sure we didn’t foul them. Defense has been a real big emphasis in practice.”

The Bulldogs struggled offensively to start the second half, managing only two field goals over the first eight minutes.

Alabama took advantage to close within five points at 42-37 with 13:16 left.

After the Crimson Tide closed within 45-42, the Bulldogs eased back into control with a 10-2 run, thanks in large part to the defensive pressure.

Grant split a pair of technical free throws to push the lead to 55-44 with 5:00 left.

MSU created the final margin by closing out the contest with an 11-2 run.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 21 of 56 shots from the field (37.5 percent), 6 of 16 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 18 of 22 shots from the foul line (81.8 percent). The Crimson Tide hit 13 of 43 shots from the field (30.2 percent), 1 of 7 shots from 3-point range (14.3 percent) and 23 of 31 shots from the foul line (74.2 percent).

Alabama held a 36-34 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had six assists and 22 turnovers.

Martha Alwal shook off a 2 of 11 night from the floor to grab a game-high 10 rebounds. William had six assists, while Alwal also had three blocked shots and three steals.

Alwal’s trio of blocks put her in sole possession of seventh place in SEC history with 293 for her career.

Alabama received 13 points from Meoshonti Knight. Ashley Williams had a team-high nine rebounds.

MSU hosts its Hail State Hoops Luncheon Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. in Mize Pavilion before heading to Oxford Thursday for a conference matchup with in-state rival Ole Miss. The Bulldogs and Rebels tip off at 8 p.m. with the game being broadcast nationally by the SEC Network.

Cost for the Hail State Hoops Luncheon is $12, and fans can RSVP by calling (662) 325-0198 or e-mailing dbrown@athletics.msstate.edu.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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