STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) –Mississippi State saved its best offensive performance of the season for its archrival.
The Bulldogs shot 72 percent from the floor in the second half to erase a six-point halftime deficit and post a 72-57 win over the arch-rival Rebels in a Southeastern Conference women’s basketball game played Sunday afternoon the Humphrey Coliseum.
For MSU, it was a sixth straight win over the in-state rival and the first league victory for Bulldog head coach Vic Schaefer.
“I am awfully proud of the effort of my kids. For the players, the coaches and everyone associated with the program, this is a good win,” Schaefer said. “For the first conference win to come against Ole Miss is even better.”
Ole Miss (8-12 overall, 1-6 conference) held the better of the competition for most of the first half. The Rebels quickly built a 7-2 lead only to see the Bulldogs respond with the game’s next seven points.
Ole Miss responded with seven quick points to build a 14-9 advantage on a Valencia McFarland layup. The lead grew to five on a 3-pointer by Gracie Frizzell.
MSU (9-11, 1-6) battled back to tie on a 3-pointer by Jerica James. Despite some early offensive struggles, the Bulldogs were beginning to build some rhythm with its inside game involving Carnecia Williams and Martha Alwal.
“The last two days we had some really good practices and that carried over to the game,” Alwal, who broke the MSU sophomore single-season blocks record in the contest, said. “I am really proud of the win and how we played.”
Ole Miss broke the next tie with six straight points and led 26-20 at the intermission.
“We allowed 14 offensive boards in the first half and you can’t do that,” Schaefer said. “Ole Miss has been scoring all year, even in losses. They average about 70 points per game in conference games. You can’t allow a team that scores the ball well extra shots. In the second half, we did a much better job, only allowing six offensive boards, including a deadball one.”
The Bulldogs quickly seized control of the contest in the early stages of the second half. Katia May scored between two Alwal buckets in the first 1:48 of the second half to force a 32-32 tie.
MSU took the lead for good by scoring six straight points to break a 36-36 tie. Despite foul trouble for Williams, she combined with Alwal to take control of the contest in the post. A jumper by May placed the Maroon and White on top 42-36 with 14:23 left in regulation.
After the Rebels cut the lead to four, MSU ran the advantage out to double digits with another 6-0 spurt. Grant scored all six points during that run as MSU built a 50-40 lead.
“The coaches had been on me because I had not been taking as many shots,” Grant said. “So today I wanted to take some more shots and fortunately they were falling. We needed a momentum changer because we were down at halftime.”
The strong offensive start to the half carried over through the final 20 minutes.
“When you shoot 72 percent in a half, you have done a lot of things well offensively,” Schaefer said. “They are a good offensive team and we held them to 27 percent shooting. This was our largest crowd of the season and I am glad the players were able to play with the type of effort we want this program to represent.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 29 of 52 shots from the field (55.8 percent), 2 of 7 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 12 of 16 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent). The Rebels hit 18 of 66 shots from the field (27.3 percent), 4 of 14 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 17 of 24 shots from the foul line (70.8 percent).
Ole Miss held a 38-37 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 13 assists and 20 turnovers, while the Rebels had 13 assists and 15 turnovers.
Alwal posted her 10th double-double (23 points and 12 rebounds) to lead MSU. Grant added 20 points, while May scored 15 points and Williams scored 11. For Alwal, it matched a career high in points as she has scored 23 now three different times. May also notched a career high in points.
Ole Miss received 16 points from Tia Faleru, 12 points from Diara Moore and 10 points from Danielle McCray.
MSU travels to Tennessee Thursday for a 6 p.m. CT contest that will be shown regionally by Comcast Sports Southeast.