STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State played its final non-conference game of the season Monday night, rolling past Mississippi Valley State 98-58 in in front of a season-high crowd of 2,764 at the Humphrey Coliseum.
“We have to be ready for Southeastern Conference play because it is here,” MSU junior guard Kendra Grant said. “We still have some things to work on and we showed that in the first half. Coach told us we didn’t play with heart (in the first half).
“We played a lot harder in the second half. Our defensive pressure was a lot better because coach was not happy with it at halftime.”
With the victory, the Bulldogs matched last season’s overall win total and claimed the best start in school history with a 13-1 record. MSU hits the road to Florida (10-3) to open Southeastern Conference play Thursday night.
After a nip-and-tuck first half, MSU eased into halftime with a 40-34 advantage. In the second half, the Bulldogs shot 54.1 percent from the floor and held the Delta Devilettes to seven second-half field goals and 24 total points.
MSU placed six players in double figures, which included Breanna Richardson’s first double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds). Martha Alwal led the scoring with 22 points, her third-straight game with 20-plus points. Kendra Grant added 16 points, while Dominique Dillingham and Sherise Williams each added 15 points. Savannah Carter added 11 points.
In 28 minutes, Williams added four blocks, four steals, two assists and barely missed a double-double with nine rebounds.
“Disappointed in our first half,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Give credit to Mississippi Valley State. They came in, executed their game plan and took it to us. In the second half, we played a little better. With a young and inexperienced team, this is what you get a lot of times.
“We are fixing to get into the monster the next couple of months. If you have a first half like this in those games, you can’t come back.”
In the first half, the Bulldogs finally got separation with four straight points to build a 21-15 lead. A layup by Katia May later extended the lead to 26-19. MVSU closed back within three at 31-28, before MSU ended the half with a 9-6 run to build the six-point lead.
The Bulldogs scored the first 12 points of the final half to quickly build a 50-34 lead on a layup by Carter with 16:36 left. A follow-up 10-0 run later stretched the lead to 30 at 82-50 with 7:01 left in the contest.
“We aren’t ready (for SEC play), but the good news is we have two days to get ready,” Schaefer said. “Our energy level was low on the press. In the second half, our effort was better. The press kicked in and we got 26 extra shots.
“We got the ball inside. We are 13-1 but there are so many things to be concerned about.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 32 of 68 shots from the field (47.1 percent), 2 of 7 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 32 of 46 shots from the foul line (69.6 percent). The Delta Devilettes hit 16 of 42 shots from the field (38.1 percent), 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent) and 21 of 31 shots from the foul line (67.7 percent).
MSU held a 47-27 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 21 assists and 13 turnovers, while the Delta Devilettes had nine assists and 33 turnovers.
MVSU (1-10) received 18 points from Joncyee Sanders and 12 points from Olivia Kennedy.The Bulldogs and Gators are set for a 6 p.m. CT start Thursday from the O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. MSU will play its first conference home game against Auburn at 2 p.m. Sunday.