By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State is off to the second-best start in school history for women’s basketball.
After winning just 13 games during his initial season with the Bulldogs, Vic Schaefer has started his second year 12-1 before the Christmas break.
“We’re 12-1 at Christmas, that’s a great feeling and a great accomplishment for our group,” Schaefer said. “I’m excited for them.”
MSU also began the 2008-09 season at 12-1. That team went on to finish the year 23-10 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Schaefer returned seven players from last year’s squad including leading scorers Martha Alwal and Kendra Grant. The juniors are again topping the Bulldogs in the scoring column with Alwal averaging 16.6 points while Grant is adding 14 points.
Alwal leads the Southeastern Conference with 33 blocks, is second in field goal percentage (.585) and third in rebounding with 9.2 per game.
Junior college transfer Savannah Carter tops the SEC with 2.9 steals per game while senior point guard Katia May is third with 6.4 assists.
As a team, State leads the league in turnover margin (+10.23) and sports the second-best record behind Arkansas (12-0). The Bulldogs also lead the country with 302 free throws made and 416 free throws attempted this season.
Mississippi State has one final non-conference test, on Monday hosting Mississippi Valley State, before entering league play at Florida on Jan. 2.
“Coach always tells us the monsters are coming and it’s true,” Grant said. “We’re just taking the teams that we’re playing now and trying to prepare ourselves for what is to come.”
Mississippi State freshman guard Dominique Dillingham was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week in women’s basketball earlier this week.
The 5-foot-9 native of Spring, Texas, averaged 11 points, four rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.5 steals in the Bulldogs two victories over North Dakota State and Southeastern Louisiana last week.
Dillingham scored five points and added five rebounds in her first career start at North Dakota State while adding 17 points and three boards in 20 minutes off the bench against Southeastern Louisiana.
“She’s my silent assassin,” Schaefer said. “She’s my fix-it, my plumber. She just does what it takes. She’s just a basketball player. She doesn’t care who we’re playing – whether it’s No. 1 in the country or No. 101 or 201. She is going to show up and no one is going to ruin her pure joy of playing the game. Those players are special.”
Dillingham has appeared in all 13 games for MSU this season and is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points per game. She has shot 38.5 percent from the floor and is grabbing an average of 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game.