Bulldogs Use Strong 1st Half To Down ASU

STARKVILLE, Miss. – A dominating first-half performance lifted Mississippi State past Alabama State 75-49 in women's basketball action Saturday night in the Humphrey Coliseum.

In the opening half, the Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the floor and quickly sprinted to 39-12 lead at the intermission. However, in the second half, the Bulldogs continued their recent struggles of putting a game away and were actually outscored by a single point in the final stanza.

"We played well in first half and very poorly in the second," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "Our lack of focus and commitment to detail is very alarming right now. Our inability to put together two good halves is a concern right now. We have a lack of commitment on the defensive end.

"We just had a poor focus defensively in the second half. We have always taken great pride in our defense here. We are allowing way too many things that we have taken pride in, in the past."

With strong shooting early and a suffocating defense, MSU scored the first 11 points of the game. A 3-pointer and follow-up layup by Kendra Grant capped the run. The Bulldogs followed with a 9-0 run to build a 20-2 advantage with 12:39 left before halftime.

The lead grew to 24 at 29-5 on a jumper by Ketara Chapel with 5:52 left before halftime.

In the opening half, the Bulldogs held the Lady Hornets to four total field goals and 13.3 percent shooting from the field. MSU forced 18 of Alabama State's 28 turnovers in the opening half.

"Right now we are struggling to have continuity with our substitutions," Schaefer said. "You forget about how well you played in the first half because of how bad things got in the second half. We allowed 37 points in the second half and that is not acceptable."

In the second half, the Lady Hornets shot 38.7 percent from the field and remained in the contest.

"It is all about lack of focus on the defensive end," MSU freshman guard Dominique Dillingham said. "We have to find a way to be consistent for two halves. That is what we are working on right now."

Another basket by Grant ran the lead to a game's best 29 points at 54-25 with 11:05 left in the contest. Alabama State followed with one final run but got no closer than 22 points at 56-34 about three minutes later.

With the victory, MSU improved to 9-1, continuing its best start since the 2008-09 campaign.

"I have been doing it long enough to know sometimes you get a false sense of security of how good you are," Schaefer said. "We can't play this way and beat a lot of people in just one half. The schedule gets tougher from here, but we are pleased to be 9-1 while playing so many new people."

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 27 of 60 shots from the field (45.0 percent), 1 of 2 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 20 of 30 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Lady Hornets hit 16 of 61 shots from the field (26.2 percent), 5 of 15 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 12 of 18 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

Alabama State held a 47-41 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 17 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Lady Hornets had eight assists and 28 turnovers.

Grant paced MSU with 16 points, while Dillingham added 13 points. Sherise Williams fell just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Martha Alwal added eight points and eight rebounds. Savannah Carter had four assists and four steals, while Katia May added five assists.

The Bulldogs blocked 10 shots in the contest, with Alwal, MSU's career blocks leader, swatting five and Williams rejecting four attempts.

Alabama State (4-2) received eight points from Kayla Tucker and seven points from Brittney Wright. Wright led all rebounders with 10 boards – all on the defensive end – in the contest.

The Bulldogs will take the week ahead off to concentrate on final examinations. MSU will host in-state rival Southern Mississippi at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Humphrey Coliseum.

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