There were tears of happiness and sorrow prior to tipoff as senior guard Darriel Gaynor, from Las Vegas, Nevada, was recognized prior to her last home game. The guard was the lone senior during Coach Schaefer's first campaign. Her highlight of the year came at Missouri, where she scored 14 points on four 3-pointers, her most in an SEC game.
"It felt like my teammates did this for me tonight. It was my most memorable moment at Mississippi State," said Gaynor.
Gaynor's first points of the evening came from a contested three-point shot earlier in the half.
The opening minutes of the ballgame were not without some electricity for Bulldog fans, as their team led 12-4 with 15:53 remaining in the opening half.
Mississippi State pushed the lead out even further with a pull up jumper from Gaynor, which was her eighth point of the night. State led 19-4 with 12:27 remaining.
"We knew they were going to come out with intensity considering their coach was screaming and yelling at everybody. Once our defense made stops, it led to our offense making a run," guard Jerica James stated.
Sophomore Martha Alwal made her presence known in the latter half of the period with her offensive boards and putbacks.
The feeling that Gaynor had early in the game was fading away along with all outside shooting for the Bulldogs of Starkville, and they struggled to work it inside the paint.
Georgia closed in with a 9-0 run late in the first half to put the score at 24-18 in favor of Mississippi State. Georgia adding four more points, leaving coach Vic Schaefer's team with a two-point lead at the half, 24-22.
In the second half, Mississippi State was able to open the game back up with timely three-point shooting from Gaynor and Jerica James.
The game stood still from an offensive standpoint in the middle of the second half, but Georgia was able to tighten the lead to four points with 7:44 left.
Georgia's focus was to take away the points in the paint in the second half, and they were successful. They kept Mississippi State to 12 points down low.
With four minutes left in the game, State fans and players were begging for a score. They received what they wanted by way of a three-point shot from Jerica James.
The contest eventually came down to free throw shooting and the Bulldogs delivered, finishing 14-17 (82.4%) for the game. Their consistency at the free throw line led to a 50-38 victory over a ranked opponent, which has not happened for Mississippi State since they knocked off 8th ranked Ohio State in 2010.
"To see these kids go what they've gone through this year, I'm just so proud of my kids for their effort against a great team and a great coach," Schaefer said. "It's so rewarding as a coach and a staff."
Mississippi State shot 15-48 (31.3%) for the game, making six three-point baskets. Scoring was divided among Grant (13), Gaynor (11), and Alwal (12). Alwal also recorded another double-double for the season with 14 rebounds.
"You don't know how hard it is to hold a team to five baskets. The eleventh-ranked team had five in the first and five in the second," Schaefer said. "We threw the first punch and they made a run, that's what a great team does, but we held on and finished it."
The tears that fell before the ball game turned into bursting excitement and laughter in the post-game press conference, with the biggest grin coming from senior Darriel Gaynor.
"What a way to send her out tonight; our kids laid it on the line for her tonight. It's the way a player should go out," Schaefer said, referring to Gaynor's last game, a game that she will probably remember for the rest of her life.
Carew Ferguson is a feature writer for the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.