STARKVILLE, Miss. - A second-half comeback fell short Monday night as the Mississippi State women's basketball team dropped a 56-48 decision to Hampton in the Humphrey Coliseum.
"I thought Hampton was very well prepared," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "I thought they took the fight to us, especially at the guard position. They really dictated what we were able to do offensively with their pressure."
The Bulldogs trailed 44-32 with 9:14 left in regulation. MSU scored the game's next 10 points, with eight-straight points of the run coming from senior Darriel Gaynor. After cutting the deficit to two points, the Bulldogs missed on a potential game-tying possession before turning the ball over on the game's next possession.
"They're a great team," Gaynor said. "We take nothing from them, but we didn't execute our own plays. That's something we're going to practice on. It is our fault that we couldn't get a rhythm of offense."
Gaynor finished the night with 10 points, one shy of matching her career high.
Three days after tallying a game- and career-high 23 points, sophomore Martha Alwal finished one rebound shy of a second-straight double-double as she scored a team-high 13 points to go along with nine rebounds.
Fellow sophomore Kendra Grant added 11 points, including 2 of 3 from three-point range.
Hampton scored the game's first six points and set the tone early with its physical, rugged style of defensive play. In the first half alone, the Bulldogs had 16 turnovers.
MSU answered with a tenacious defensive effort of its own. Two free throws by Martha Alwal tied the contest at six apiece. She then followed with a jumper that gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night.
A basket by Gaynor placed the Bulldogs on top 15-12, but Hampton's defense stiffened, allowing only one field goal over the final 7:49 of the half.
The Lady Pirates ended the half on a 14-3 run to take a 26-18 halftime advantage.
"We had 16 (turnovers) in the first half," Gaynor said. "That's points we could've had, chances we didn't get to shoot. That's execution. We need to make sure we execute on offense. That's our fault. We beat ourselves."
In the second half, the Bulldogs improved their ball movement and cut the turnover total down to seven. Still, Hampton enjoyed a 10-point lead at 34-24 with 13:38 left in regulation time.
The Bulldogs closed within five on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Kendra Grant. The Lady Pirates ran the lead out to 12 points on two different occasions midway through the second half.
Down 44-32, the Bulldogs began their rally with two free throws from Carnecia Williams. After Gaynor's spree brought the Maroon and White within 44-42, Hampton answered with the game's next five points.
"Credit our kids for fighting back into the game," Schaefer said. "When we made that run, we were doing a better job of getting the ball in the lane. We were getting the ball to the basket and either scoring or getting fouled."
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 13 of 44 shots from the field (29.5 percent), 4 of 7 shots from 3-point range (57.1 percent) and 18 of 23 shots from the foul line (78.3 percent). The Lady Pirates hit 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5 percent), 1 of 6 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 17 of 29 shots from the foul line (58.6 percent).
Hampton held a 44-29 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had six assists and 23 turnovers, while the Lady Pirates had 12 assists and 21 turnovers.
Hampton received 19 points from Keiara Avant, 14 points from Alyssa Bennett and 14 points from Nicole Hamilton.
MSU hosts Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Friday to wrap a season-opening, three-game homestand.