ALWAL, GRANT HAVE CAREER NIGHTS AS BULLDOGS DOWN HOUSTON IN SEASON OPENER
Miss. –New Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer has
promised a squad which competes with relentless effort and plays hard
on both ends of the floor.
Fans of the Bulldogs saw all that and a victory Friday night in
Schaefer’s coaching debut. Behind a double-double from Martha Alwal,
MSU opened the season with a 72-66 win over Houston in the Humphrey
Alwal finished with a career-high 23 points and 18 rebounds, including
11 on the offensive end. Alwal’s big night included four blocked shots
on the defensive end and 9-of-10 foul shooting on the offensive end.
Kendra Grant also tallied a career-best points tally, notching 22 in
Alwal also blocked four shots, giving her 86 for her young MSU career
to tie Sharon Thompson for fourth in the school record books.
“I am really proud of the way the kids played tonight,” Schaefer said.
“This game was a great reward for their hard work. These kids have
worked harder than they ever have in their lives. Seeing them rewarded
with a victory and competing until the very end was satisfying.”
State built an early seven-point lead and led by four points at halftime. MSU only trailed twice in the game’s final 20 minutes.
“Last year all I thought about was defense,” Alwal said. “I didn’t care
for scoring. This year coach (Schaefer) is pushing me to get more
involved in offense and that’s what I’m focused on. When we (Grant and
Alwal) do well, I feel like everyone else feeds off of us. If we
continue to do well, as we’re doing right now, thEn it’ll help the team
a lot more.”
The Bulldogs grabbed their first lead at 4-3 on a layup by Alwal.
Houston regrouped for a 9-2 run and a 12-6 advantage. The Bulldogs then
got a lift from the second-five as it helped piece together a 7-0 run
for an 18-17 lead. Jessy Ward’s first-career three-pointer brought the
Maroon and White within one, and an Alwal layup pushed the squad ahead.
MSU held Houston to 28 percent first-half shooting from the field and led 32-28 at the intermission.
“Defense was the most impressive part of the game,” Grant said. “Our
biggest thing the past couple of games has been rebounding. I feel like
we did a lot better than in our last game (a 55-49 exhibition win over
A basket by Grant ran the MSU advantage to nine points at 38-29 with
17:45 left to play. Houston rallied for a 43-42 advantage and also led
49-47 with 10:36 remaining.
A 3-point play by Alwal gave the hosts the lead for good with 9:42 left in regulation.
Houston got as close as three, 63-60, with 3:12 to play, but senior
Darriel Gaynor drained a three from the left corner to give MSU a
two-possession lead it would not relinquish.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 22 of 69 shots from the field (31.9
percent), 3 of 8 shots from 3-point range (37.5 percent) and 25 of 34
shots from the foul line (73.5 percent). The Cougars hit 25 of 79 shots
from the field (31.6 percent), 5 of 26 shots from 3-point range (19.2
percent) and 11 of 15 shots from the foul line (73.3 percent).
MSU held a 65-39 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and
26 turnovers, while the Cougars had 11 assists and 17 turnovers.
The 65 boards and 34 trips to the charity stripe were the most since
the 2009-10 team had 71 rebounds and 37 free-throw attempts against
Grant and Sherise Williams each had nine rebounds for MSU. Katia May
had four assists, and Darriel Gaynor had two of her squad’s four steals.
Houston received 16 points from Porsche Landry, 12 points from Marissa Ashton and 10 points from Jessieka Palmer.