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November 20, 2012Mississippi State's first road trip of the season comes in a different country as the Bulldogs head to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for three games in the first Hardwood Tournament of Hope.
State opens the week's action against Winthrop at 3:30 p.m. CT Tuesday. The following day, Coach Vic Schaefer's squad will face either Oregon State or UC Santa Barbara.
The bottom half of the bracket includes Central Florida, Gonzaga, No. 8 Louisville and Missouri State.
All three of MSU's games will be broadcast on either WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3, or WNMQ-FM 103.1.
"I'm excited for our kids to have the opportunity to take in a different culture," Schaefer said. "One thing I learned from [Texas A&M] Coach [Gary] Blair is that when you take your team on the road, you let them experience and enjoy the culture. You don't keep them in a hotel and just practice and play games.
"My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, and this is our family and it will be fun," Schaefer added. "However, this is also a business trip, and we will play three games on a neutral court. It will be good to see us compete in that environment. I'm curious to see how we handle things without our home crowd against three very good teams."
Mississippi State wrapped a three-game, season-opening homestand with a 57-55 win against Louisiana Tech on Friday. The win moved MSU to 2-1 on the season.
Sophomore Kendra Grant paced the Bulldogs' second-half comeback against Louisiana Tech, scoring 14 of her 20 points in the second half.
Grant's second 20-point outing of the season boosted her team-leading scoring average to 17.7 ppg, the second-highest average in the SEC and the top by a sophomore in the league.
Senior Darriel Gaynor was also instrumental in Friday's win, matching her career high with 11 points. Two of Gaynor's points won the game for MSU, as her jumper with 52 seconds left broke a 55-55 tie.
Gaynor has scored double figures in two-straight games to raise her average to 9.7 ppg.
Sophomore Martha Alwal had another solid game against the Lady Techsters, swatting five shots to go along with six points and six rebounds.
The Worthington, Minn., native is averaging a double-double so far on the year, registering 14.0 ppg to go along with 11.0 rebounds.
Alwal tops the SEC with 3.3 blocks per contest, while her 11.0 rebounding average is the second-best in the league overall and the top mark by a sophomore.
The Bulldogs open play against a Winthrop team that is 1-1 following a 78-53 setback to Ohio State on Saturday.
The Lady Eagles are paced in scoring by Aliyah Kilpatrick with 11.5 ppg. Taylor Calvert paces Winthrop on the boards, averaging 12.0 per contest.
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