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January 16, 2014

Bulldogs Give Valiant Effort in Loss to the Lady Vols

Tennessee (14-3, 3-2) came to Starkville on Thursday night winners of all 38 games in their series against Mississippi State (14-4, 1-3) and most of those weren't close. This year, however, Vic Schaefer's squad showed how close they are as they battled the #10 Lady Vols but came up short, 67-63 in front of 3,169 fans at Humphrey Coliseum. It was the eighth-largest crowd in school history and largest since 2010.

It was a three woman show for the Bulldogs on Thursday with the veterans stepping up to the plate. Martha Alwal, Kendra Grant and Katia May all produced offensively while the others couldn't find their game. All three registered double figures scoring.

MSU came out of the gate aggressive as Martha Alwal hit the first two baskets and gave the Bulldogs an early 4-2 advantage with under 16 minutes remaining in the first. The Bulldogs became stagnant, however, and couldn't get production on the offensive end as Tennessee went on an 18-4 run to take the 20-8 lead with 9:52 left in the half.

State would not back down and they used production from Kendra Grant sparking a 12-6 run of their own to close the gap to 26-23 at the half. Alwal and Grant single-handedly kept the Bulldogs in the game in the first reeling in eight and seven points respectively and the Bulldogs forced 13 turnovers.

As the start of the second half began, the Bulldogs momentum continued and they drew within two at 26-25. The Vols would push the lead back out a bit to as much as eight with over nine minutes remaining but the Bulldogs continued to keep it close drawing the game to three points on several occasions.

State found themselves on one occasion going down by eight points but quickly got back in it. Breanna Richardson hit a layup and was fouled but couldn't hit the free throw. Fortunately, Katia May was there to coral the rebound and she kicked it to Dominique Dillingham for the three and the game was back to three with four minutes left.

State just couldn't get over the hump, however and never drew closer than that the rest of the game as Tennessee prevailed.

"It was a heck of a basketball game," Schaefer said. "I don't think that there's anybody that's satisfied with anything about the outcome. It doesn't matter if it was close or whatever, we came to play and our kids competed their absolute tails off. You've got to remember, a year ago it was 88-45 in Knoxville. I'd say we've come a long ways."

State got 21 points on 8-17 shooting from Grant and 14 from May on 6-10 shooting with six assist. Alwal dropped in 10 points, only two in the second half, with nine rebounds.

"I haven't been playing well these last couple of games and we really just didn't want to come out and disappoint the crowd or ourselves," Grant said. "I just wanted to really redeem myself from the last couple of games and do everything I could to help the team."

MSU gave up 49% shooting and shot 40% themselves while shooting 6-18 from three point range. MSU forced 22 turnovers and were outrebounded 35-31.

Schaefer now heads back to his home at College Station as the Bulldogs take on the Aggies of Texas A&M on Sunday followed by a road game in Oxford against Ole Miss next Thursday.


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