Coach Vic Schaefer's team began the game knowing they were outmatched in size. In fact, Florida's towering center Vicky McIntyre scored the opening points of the ball game. Additionally, the Bulldogs were without senior guard Darriel Gaynor and freshman forward Sherise Williams.
After five minutes of play, the Bulldogs kept the score close, 4-2, thanks to a great defensive effort. But offensively they struggled to move the ball and find open looks.
Sophomore forward Shamia Robinson gave her team a bit of a spark after she pulled up beyond the arc for a critical three point opportunity.
But the Gators pulled ahead by nine midway through the first half.
Mississippi State struggled to compete with Florida offensively due to the Gators taking away the high-low game that had worked so well for the Bulldogs.
"For us it starts on the defensive end," said Schaefer. He felt that his team and their defensive approach kept the game from getting out of hand when they were down by nine.
After finally completing some of that signature high-low philosophy of Coach Schaefer, Kendra Grant turned on her offensive game by making three jump shots in under two minutes. The game was knotted up at eighteen with a little over six minutes in the half.
Despite getting to the foul line ten less times than the Gators, the Bulldogs were only down by two with three minutes left in the half.
Mississippi State continued to stay on the heels of Florida throughout the remainder of the half. They went into the locker room down by five with a score of 30-25.
Coach Schaefer utilized the press to begin the second half which led to an early turnover and a three point play by Grant.
Early in the half the Bulldogs' offense was largely dependent on jump shots. Even forwards like Alwal were capitalizing on outside opportunities.
One characteristic of the first half that Mississippi State could not shake in the second was allowing Florida to reach the charity strike far more than the Lady Bulldogs.
With ten minutes remaining in regulation the Bulldogs had pulled within three. They were going to be tested once again in order to see if they could gain ground on Florida or give it right back.
On a side note, the people of Starkville got a workout in as they chastised the officiating of Thursday night's matchup.
Mississippi State may not have gained any ground on Florida, but they were definitely on the verge of doing so as Kendra Grant threw up a confident three with seven minutes left. She electrified the crowd with another three-pointer at the six-minute mark, pulling the Lady Bulldogs to within one, 51-50, with 5:20 remaining.
Kendra Grant would not say what gave her the confidence to make the shots beyond the arc; however she did make an adjustment.
"I just changed my whole mindset for this game. Every opportunity I had, if it was open, I was taking it," said Grant.
Shamia Robinson gave her team their first lead of the night with a turnaround look under the basket thanks to an assist from Katia May.
Kendra Grant added another three with just under two minutes left in the game.
But the Gators regained the lead and with time ticking against them the Lady Bulldogs were forced to foul and the Gators capitalized, earning a 61-55 victory.
The free throw attempts taken by Florida were a huge hit to Mississippi State. Florida was 25-39 (64.1%) from the line, while Mississippi State was only 6-7 (85.7%). As a whole Mississippi State shot 22-65 (33.8%), while Florida shot 17-44 (38.6%). The Bulldogs were 5-12 (41.7%) from beyond the arc.
Individually Kendra Grant led the scoring charge with 23 points, 12 of which came from three-point range. Martha Alwal produced a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
"I'm disappointed; my kids deserved to win. I am proud of the effort; it's my job to get them home," said Schaefer.
Coach Schaefer also recognized the fact that Florida took a large amount of free throw attempts.
"I'm pretty frustrated with that. I can't make any comments, but that bothers me," he said.
Despite the foul trouble, Martha Alwal looked ahead and had positive things to say about the future.
"I don't want to say we played great because we didn't. But we are so close to being there, to being that team," said Alwal.
Mississippi State goes on the road against LSU and Kentucky this week, and they are back at home on January 24 against Texas A&M.