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January 13, 2013Following a pair of hard-fought home setbacks, Mississippi State looks to bounce back Sunday afternoon as it opens a two-game roadtrip at LSU. Tip for the contest, which will be televised by Cox Sports Television, is set for 2 p.m.
The Bulldogs displayed a gutsy effort Thursday night, but were unable to complete the rally as they fell 61-55 to Florida.
"I think our kids are playing harder and beginning to understand more what we are doing and how we are trying to do things," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "Every game I see improvement. The biggest thing is I see us playing hard and competing."
Trailing by nine with 8:29 to play, State reeled off a 10-0 run to take a 52-51 lead. The Dawgs couldn't maintain the advantage though, as Florida scored six-straight points to send MSU to 8-8 overall and 0-3 in SEC play.
Sophomores Kendra Grant and Martha Alwal had solid outings for the Maroon & White. Grant paced all scorers with a career-best 23 points, while Alwal recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 boards.
Grant, a Richland, Miss., native, returned to double-figures the past two contests while boosting her season average to a team-best 13.1 ppg.
"I've told her I don't want her passing up anymore shots," MSU head coach Schaefer said of Grant following Thursday's game. "We run a lot of stuff for her to try and get a shot. With Darriel (Gaynor) hurt, we had her at the two, and I think that's her spot."
Grant hopes her hot shooting from 3-point range carries down to Baton Rouge. Against the Gators, she matched her career high with four 3-pointers.
Alwal sits just behind her classmate in the scoring column with an 11.9 average. The Worthington, Minn., native tops MSU with 9.6 rebounds per contest, a mark that is second in the league.
In addition to her double-double numbers, Alwal swatted a pair of shots Thursday to claim second place on State's career records list with 119.
"Defense, rebounding and having an inside game has always been my recipe for winning on the road. We are going to have to defend hard tomorrow, and we have to rebound, something that has been an Achilles of ours all year," Schaefer said. "You have to have an inside game, which we've shown the propensity to have at times. It's going to be very important that our bigs come to play, we handle the ball and we guard hard."
Sunday's contest against LSU will be a battle of two of the league's top shot blockers. Alwal's 2.3 blocks per game is third-best in the SEC, while LSU's Theresa Plaisance tops the conference with a 3.1 average.
Plaisance has helped the Lady Tigers to a 10-6 overall record and 1-2 conference mark by averaging an SEC-best 18.3 ppg. She also tops LSU on the boards with 7.9 per game.
She paces four LSU players averaging double figures. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Danielle Ballard scores at a 14.9 per-game clip, while Adrienne Webb and Bianca Lutley average 12.6 and 10.8 points per game, respectively.
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