After struggling out of the gates, the Bulldogs scored 50 second-half points to cruise to the victory. MSU was back on the court after seeing a season-opening seven-game win streak snapped by a Sunday loss to Middle Tennessee State in the Gulf Coast Showcase championship game in Estero, Fla.
“Not to make any excuses but we have a tired basketball team right now,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “This is the fifth game in the last nine days. When the lights come on, we play really hard. Right now, we are trying to develop some toughness. It showed tonight with our slow start, but we played really well in the second half.”
MSU shot 27 percent from the field in the first half and only led 28-27 at the intermission.
“After playing three games in three days and then this game, it is a mental thing for us right now,” MSU junior Kendra Grant said. “We have to a little more focus and do the things that we need to do to be ready to play.”
MSU (8-1) scored the game’s first six points and quickly built a 14-5 lead on a free throw by Savannah Carter with 12:55 left in the half. Louisiana (4-3) answered with the game’s next six points.
Katia May hit two free throws to extend the Maroon and White lead back out to 20-13 with 6:46 left in the half.
Still, the Cajuns ended the half with a 7-1 run to pull within a single point.
“They took it to us in the first half,” Schaefer said. “They weren’t intimidated. Obviously, we didn’t play really well. We are disappointed in our team defense right now. One of the words we talked about at halftime was embarrassing. In the second half, we looked liked a totally different team. We played hard defensively and forced some turnovers.”
The Bulldogs turned their play up on both ends of the floor in the second half.
After ULL took its only lead of the contest at 29-28, MSU seized complete control with a 16-2 run. A 3-point play by Alwal and free throws by May pushed the lead to 44-31 with 15:03 left in the half.
“We don’t like to have halves like we did tonight,” Grant said. “It makes coach really frustrated in us. We just had to come in, get focused and do a lot better job on the defensive end.”
Behind the strong play of Dillingham and Alwal, the lead quickly blossomed to 58-35 with 10:35 left. The Cajuns went better than seven minutes without a made field goal.
“Savannah (Carter) was really good in the first half, she had eight defensive rebounds at halftime,” Schaefer said. “In the second half, Martha (Alwal) was really great on the boards.“
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 22 of 61 shots from the field (36.1 percent), 2 of 7 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 32 of 44 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent). The Cajuns hit 17 of 64 shots from the field (26.6 percent), 4 of 25 shots from 3-point range (16.0 percent) and 13 of 23 shots from the foul line (56.5 percent).
MSU held a 54-43 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 15 assists and 16 turnovers, while the Cajuns had eight assists and 20 turnovers.
Alwal posted her second double-double of the season and 21st of her career with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Eleven of the points and eight of the rebounds came in the game’s second half. Grant was also in double figures with 12 points. Carter and Breanna Richardson each finished with eight rebounds. May had five assists, while Carter had four steals.
ULL was led by 10 points from Jaylyn Gordon.
MSU welcome associate head baseball coach Butch Thompson as the guest speaker for the first Hail State Hoops luncheon Thursday. Doors open at 11:15 a.m., with the program starting at 11:30.
Cost for the luncheon, which includes lunch, the program and the chance to win door prizes, is $12 per person or $60 for all six luncheons. Fans can RSVP by calling (662) 325-0198.
Following Thursday’s luncheon, the Bulldogs return to the court Saturday, hosting Alabama State at 7 p.m.