By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – The third time was the charm for Mississippi State.
Auburn had defeated the Bulldogs twice during the regular season but MSU simply would not go away in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Thursday night.
The Tigers held a 14-point lead at the first media timeout of the second half and the Bulldog had yet to lead in the contest. Then MSU proceeded to go on a 19-4 run out of the timeout and finished with a 59-54 victory to advance to the Elite Eight of the WNIT for the first time.
“Once again, this team doesn’t quit,” said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. “They are just so resilient. To be in that ballgame tonight and play the way we played for so long. I don’t think we really had a good stretch in the first half. But to come out in the second half and respond the way they did, they are almost schizophrenic.”
The Bulldogs (22-13) will host South Florida (22-12) at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Grant off the bench
Kendra Grant played a huge role in the turnaround for the Bulldogs off the bench. The junior guard scored 15 of her game-high 20 points during the final 15:42 of the second half.
“I wasn’t doing too well in the first half so I knew in the second half I had to do something,” Grant said. “We were down and did not want to lose this game. I was just doing whatever I could to make us be on top.”
Martha Alwal added her 31st career double-double and 12th of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds in addition to five blocked shots.
State trailed 28-19 at halftime after shooting just 26.9 percent from the field. But the Bulldogs responded by shooting 48 percent in the second half.