Vic Schaefer stresses to his team the importance of competing every possession.
A young Mississippi State women's basketball team will try to do that on the road Thursday as it heads to Lexington to meet No. 5 Kentucky in a 6 p.m. CT tip at Memorial Coliseum.
Thursday's contest will be broadcast on WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3. Live audio of the contest will also be available to HailStateTV subscribers at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive.
State enters the contest 8-9 overall and 0-4 in the SEC following a tough 62-42 setback at LSU on Sunday. The Bulldogs fought valiantly in the contest, but were unable to overcome an 18-2 run by the Lady Tigers to end the first half.
"We played well at LSU for all but 5:30 of the first half. I was proud of that effort from our kids once we kind of settled down from the run LSU made at the end of the first half," Schaefer said. "To play well on the road, you have to compete every possession and play with poise."
Mississippi State will try to do that against a Kentucky team that is 16-1 overall and 4-0 in league play.
"Kentucky plays like we aspire to play. They play physical, tough, aggressive defense, and they like to get up and down the floor. Their offense feeds off their defense," Schaefer said. "We have to compete in what is going to be a tough environment. Kentucky likes to cause turnovers, but we have to eliminate the ones that lead to layups."
The Maroon and White will look for another big performance from sophomore Martha Alwal. The Worthington, Minn., native has been sensational in SEC play, averaging 13.0 points and 10.3 rebounds.
Alwal collected back-to-back double-doubles last week, notching 17 points and 12 rebounds against Florida before capping the week with a 17-point, 14-rebound showing at LSU.
Alwal, who leads the league with 10 double-figure rebounding games, is scoring at a 12.2 clip while rating second in the SEC in rebounds (9.8) and third in blocked shots (2.4).
"Martha is playing with some confidence. She feels comfortable at the free-throw line, and she has become a good help defender in that she will block and alter shots," Schaefer said. "She shut down LSU's best player (Theresea) Plaisance, who was the leading scorer in the conference. I was pleased with how well she played against her, and I was pleased with our kids battling through some foul trouble."
Sophomore Kendra Grant paces the Bulldogs in scoring with a 12.8 average. The Richland, Miss., native struggled from the field in Baton Rouge, scoring seven points off a pair of 3-pointers and a free throw.
Grant will be aiming for another performance like she had against Florida on Thursday when she poured in a career-best 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting, including a career-high four 3-pointers.
The Bulldogs will be aiming to snap a five-game Kentucky win streak. The Wildcats are currently riding a school-record 15-game win streak and a 31-game run at home.
Reigning SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies' 14.5 scoring average paces a Kentucky squad that is averaging an SEC second-best 77.0 ppg.
Samarie Walker paces the Wildcats with 8.5 rebounds per game.
Following the contest in Lexington, State returns to Humphrey Coliseum next Thursday, Jan. 24, for a 7 p.m. tip against No. 20 Texas A&M.