State Women Set for SEC Tourney; Alwal Earns SEC Honors
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State women's basketball sophomore Martha Alwal was named Second Team All-SEC and to the league's all-defensive squad in advance of the Bulldogs' SEC Tournament opener against Alabama at 5 p.m. CT Wednesday.
Alwal paced the Southeastern Conference in the regular season with 16 double-doubles, a mark that tied LaToya Thomas (2001-02) for second-most in school history.
Ten of her double-doubles came in SEC play, where she averaged 12.6 points and 10.0 boards.
She also topped the conference with 18 double-figure rebounding games and 9.9 rebounds per contest.
"I'm very proud of her and her development. It's a culmination of her continued progress and hard work, and she's not close to reaching where she can go," head coach Vic Schaefer said. "I was more proud of her comment to me that she was more proud of being named to the defensive team than All-SEC. She's been a good helper on defense all year, and we are going to need her to continue doing that."
Alwal, who averaged 12.3 ppg this season, finished second in the conference and 17th in the nation in blocked shots with 74, the MSU sophomore record and fourth-best overall tally. Her 286 rebounds also rank fourth in school single-season history.
Alwal swatted an SEC-best 2.7 shots per game in conference action.
"Being named second team All-SEC and All-Defensive team is such a tremendous honor," Alwal said. "There are some great players in this league, so to be included in that group is great."
The Worthington, Minn., also put together a stellar campaign at the free-throw line, connecting on an SEC fourth-most 78.9 percent of her attempts.
Alwal and the Bulldogs meet Alabama in the opening game of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday. The contest will be broadcast on Fox Sports South and WNMQ-FM 103.1. Live audio will also be available to HailStateTV subscribers at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive.
"It's an opportunity for us to win No. 14, and we're excited about the opportunity," Schaefer said. "We just played Alabama a couple of weeks ago, and we'll be the only game in town. It doesn't change anything for us because we're just trying to get better. We're not going to stop coaching and teaching and getting better until the last whistle blows."
Wednesday's contest will be a rematch of the Feb. 21 regular-season meeting in Starkville that the Bulldogs claimed 75-51.
In that contest, State's defense held Alabama to 26.2-percent shooting from the field and swatted 11 shots, a mark that tied Tennessee for the most in an SEC game this season.
Offensively, Carnecia Williams paced MSU with 25 points, one off her career high. Alwal tallied 18 points and 15 rebounds to go along with a season-high eight blocked shots.
The win was State's third-straight against the Crimson Tide and eighth in the last nine meetings.
The Bulldogs come to Duluth looking to bounce back from a tough 74-65 setback at Auburn on Sunday. The loss put MSU at 13-16 overall, 5-11 in SEC play.
"I'm probably the proudest coach in the country. I'm really proud to see how our kids have learned how to compete this year in, without a doubt, the toughest conference in the country," Schaefer said. "I'm so proud of my group in their ability to keep their heads up and keep plugging away. Our inexperience and youth has been something that we have learned to deal with, but I'm proud of the 11 I have."
Sophomore Kendra Grant joins Alwal in averaging double figures this season. The Richland, Miss., native scored 15 points at Auburn to raise her season scoring average to 11.9 ppg.
Grant, Alwal and the Bulldogs meet an Alabama squad that is 12-17 overall, 2-14 in league play. The Crimson Tide closed the regular season with 10-straight defeats.Daisha Simmons paces Alabama with 12.4 ppg. Shafontaye Myers also averages double digits with 11.2 per game. Kaneisha Horn tops the Crimson Tide on the boards with 5.4 per contest.