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February 21, 2013Mississippi State looks for a strong start to the regular season's stretch run as it hosts Alabama Thursday night in SEC women's basketball action. Tip for the contest is set for 7 p.m.
Thursday's contest is Residence Life Night, with the first 100 students receiving free HailState Hoops basketballs.
The game will be broadcast on WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3. Live video and audio streams for HailStateTV subscribers will be available at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive.
Coach Vic Schaefer's squad enters the regular season's final push to the SEC Tournament 11-14 overall, 3-9 in SEC play, following a 63-41 home setback to LSU on Sunday.
"For us, we try to take it one game at a time. You can look ahead all you want, but there's four games left and a lot can happen. We just have to try and win one game at a time and get better," Schaefer said. "We were getting better in that stretch when we won three of four games, but then we hit a lull where we played great the first half at Ole Miss and didn't respond well in the second half. I think that lull carried over into the LSU game.
"Hopefully, against Alabama, we will be able to bounce back. They have great talent and are very athletic. They have lost a lot of close games, so we'll have our hands full Thursday night."
Alabama has dropped six-straight contests to fall to 12-13, 2-10 in league action. The Crimson Tide leads the overall series 34-15, but Mississippi State won its second straight and seventh in the last eight games last season with a 66-61 victory in Tuscaloosa.
The Bulldogs put together a strong second-half rally in that contest, with Kendra Grant scoring three of her 13 points on the go-ahead basket with 1:18 left.
The Richland, Miss., sophomore paces Mississippi State in scoring with a 12.2 average. Grant scored seven points against LSU on Sunday before picking up her fifth foul with 9:32 remaining.
Fellow sophomore Martha Alwal follows Grant in scoring, tallying 12.0 ppg. The Worthington, Minn., native tops the team on the boards, hauling down an SEC second-most 9.6 per contest. She also rates second in the league in blocks (2.4 bpg) and free throw percentage (.793).
Alwal, who leads the league with 13 double-doubles and 15 double-figure rebounding games, will be looking to get back on track after being held to just one rebound against LSU.
"We have to find a way to get Martha going again. Against LSU, we had Kendra and Martha on the bench the last 10 or 11 minutes of the game. We aren't going to beat anyone with them on the bench for 10 minutes in a game, much less the last 10 minutes," Schaefer said. "With this game, and any game for us, we always try to establish our inside game and give our kids plenty of looks. This one will be no different. We're certainly going to try to create opportunities to score in the paint."
Against the Lady Tigers, redshirt sophomore Carnecia Williams stepped up and scored 13 points to go along with eight rebounds. Williams averages 7.7 points five rebounds per game this season.
The battle in the paint will be an important one as both Mississippi State and Alabama are the league's best teams at defending the perimeter.
The Crimson Tide tops the league and rates eighth nationally, holding foes to 25 percent from the 3-point line. State follows in second, and No. 30 nationally, keeping opponents to just 26.5 percent.
Alabama is paced by sophomore Daisha Simmons, who scored 19 points in last Sunday's setback at Auburn to raise her season average to 13.1 ppg.
Kaneisha Horn tops the Tide on the boards, pulling down 5.4 per contest.
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