By John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Give the Mississippi State women credit for sticking with their plan.
The Bulldogs wanted to get the ball inside to their post players and wanted to make Ole Miss sparkplug guard Valencia McFarland work for everything she got.
After a rough start on Sunday afternoon, the shots began to fall in the second half and MSU loped to a 72-57 decision, the Bulldogs’ first SEC victory for new coach Vic Schaefer.
“I’m trying to teach them to be competitors and they made a big step today,” Schaefer said. “For a change, we decided we were going to be the aggressors.”
Center Martha Alwal finished with game-high totals of 23 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs, while guard Kendra Grant scored 20 points in 40 minutes. Together, they were a combined 18 of 25 from the field.
The win snapped a 10-game regular-season SEC losing streak for Mississippi State (9-11, 1-6) and extended its winning streak in the rivalry to six games. Ole Miss (8-12, 1-6) was coming off a road victory at Florida.
“I thought we came out and had a lot of energy and that’s something I preach every day,” said Brett Frank, the acting Ole Miss head coach. “I think our kids got tired in the second half, and as they got tired their legs went.”
on the rebound
The biggest sign of that may have been in the rebounding stats. After trailing 26-15 on the boards in the first half, MSU grabbed a 22-12 advantage there after intermission.
The Bulldogs finished with a 40-22 edge in points scored in the paint – including a 26-8 advantage after halftime. Forward Carnecia Williams backed up Alwal’s strong game with 11 points.
Ole Miss lost its shooting eye, also.
The Rebels led 32-26 at halftime but hit just 7 of 30 shots after intermission. Meanwhile, MSU was searing the nets, hitting 18 of 25 after the break and shooting 55.8 percent (29 of 52) for the game.
“At halftime, we told them that enough was enough,” Schafer said. “At some point, you have to stand up against your biggest rival.”
McFarland, the leading scorer this season for Ole Miss, finished with 9 points on 2 of 13 shooting as she was dogged for much of the game by MSU’s Katia May, who finished with 15 points and six assists.
“Katia was incredible,” Schaefer said.
Reserve Tia Faleru led the Rebels with 16 points.
Southern Miss 76, Rice 57: The Golden Eagles outscored the Owls 53-16 in the second half and Jamierra Faulkner and Ance Celmina each posted double-doubles. Faulkner scored a game-high 26 points and had a school record tying 16 assists. Ance Celmina added 17 points and 14 rebounds. Tanecka Carey chipped in 14.