STARKVILLE – Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer saw the defensive effort he wants Sunday afternoon in the Humphrey Coliseum.
The youthful Bulldogs held Arkansas to 14 first-half points, a season low, and held on late to post a 47-44 victory.
MSU improved to 10-12 overall and 2-7 SEC with its second straight Sunday win at home. Arkansas fell to 15-7 and 3-6. The Bulldogs snapped three-game Arkansas win streak, and beat the Razorbacks at Humphrey Coliseum for the first time since 2007.
“This was the perfect example of the type of defensive team (Coach Schaefer) wants us to be come,” MSU sophomore Kendra Grant, who scored 11 points, said. “Today, we really put it all together. We played hard and we felt like we deserved to win the game.”
Schaefer has established a mindset for mental toughness in his first season at MSU. The Bulldogs are asked to give relentless effort on the defensive end of the floor. Sunday afternoon, that type of effort was on full display, as Arkansas managed only five field goals in the game’s first half.
“We showed exceptional mental toughness in that game,” Schaefer said. “Especially there in the first half. I am proud of the kids for how we competed. The girls have worked so hard in practice and they deserve that effort rewarded with wins. No team in America works harder than we do.”
The tone for a hard-fought defensive battle was established early. The Razorbacks were held to two field goals over the first 10 minutes of play.
A jumper by Candace Foster placed the Bulldogs on top 14-4 with 10:59 left in the half. The lead grew to 12 on a Martha Alwal layup, and a 3-pointer by Darriel Gaynor extended the lead to 22-9 with 6:12 left in the half.
MSU held Arkansas to 20.8 percent shooting in the opening half and led 24-14 at the intermission.
“We know how hard we have worked in practice, so this is a good win,” MSU senior Gaynor said. “This is the type of defense coach asks us to play every game. For our team to have success it starts on the defensive end. We got stops and made scores. That is the key to having success.”
Arkansas regrouped and slowly answered in the second half. A 6-0 run brought the Razorbacks within two at 31-29 with 12:56 left in the contest. Arkansas’ Dominique Wilson tied the contest at 33 on a jumper. Wilson later gave the Razorbacks a 37-35 lead with another basket.
Schaefer encouraged his team to dig a little harder for a big finish, and the Bulldogs did just that.
A 3-pointer by Gaynor gave the Bulldogs a 42-38 lead with 5:40 left.
“Darriel stepped up and did what a senior does, hit several big shots,” Schaefer said. “We knew in the second half Arkansas would make some adjustments and make shots. Down the stretch, we had three straight stops and three straight scores. That is how you win games.”
Arkansas battled back for one last time, before the Maroon and White grabbed the lead for good. Katia May hit two free throws to break a 42-42 tie. May then got a key steal and Alwal hit the game-clinching bucket.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 16 of 47 shots from the field (34.0 percent), 3 of 8 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 12 of 18 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Razorbacks hit 17 of 53 shots from the field (32.1 percent), 0 of 10 shots from 3-point range and 10 of 17 shots from the foul line (58.8 percent).
Arkansas held a 43-35 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 19 turnovers, while the Razorbacks had 11 assists and 20 turnovers.
For MSU, Alwal posted her 11th double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. In addition to Grant’s 11 points, Gaynor contributed nine on a trio of 3-point baskets.
Arkansas received 16 points and 14 rebounds from Quistelle Williams and 15 points from Sarah Watkins.
After a midweek open date, MSU travels to Missouri Sunday. Game time is 1 p.m. with a regional telecast available on the SEC Network.