STARKVILLE, Miss., - Since Vic Schaefer took over Mississippi State's women's basketball program nearly a year ago, he has been trying to instill a strong defensive mentality and get his players to buy into his philosophy.
Everything Schaefer has strived for over the last 11 months came to fruition Thursday night as MSU upset No. 11 Georgia marking his first signature win at the helm.
"It's so rewarding as a coach to see kids go through what ours have been through this year and work like they've never worked before and to see the results that they are getting is why we do what we do," Schaefer said. "It's so, so rewarding as a staff. I couldn't be happier for those kids."
The victory was the first over a ranked opponent for State since knocking off Ohio State in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. It also gives Mississippi State its fifth conference victory of the season, eclipsing last year's total and improving to 13-15 overall.
MSU shot 31.3-percent for the game paced by Kendra Grant's 13-point performance. Grant was just 2-of-7 from the floor but converted 8-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Martha Alwal was also a force inside finishing with her SEC-leading 15th double-double effort of the year. Alwal scored 12 points and added 14 boards to go along with four blocks for State.
"I'm still shaking," Alwal said following the game. "They are No. 11. I'm just freaking out right now. I'm just really proud of us and really excited."
Mississippi State's lone senior Darriel Gaynor made her final regular season outing at Humphrey Coliseum a memorable one with 11-points including three treys on senior night.
"It means everything to me," Gaynor said. "This year alone has been a lot of records being broken. Since I've been here, we'd never beaten Arkansas, Missouri or never won senior night. I'm just so proud and happy for my team. I felt like they did this for me. This is my most memorable moment at Mississippi State."
Following an emotional pregame ceremony for Gaynor, MSU came out firing on all cylinders to start the contest. State spurted out to a 19-4 advantage over the first 7:21 of the game behind three early 3-pointers by Gaynor (2) and Grant (1).
But Georgia settled in and clawed their way back. UGA held Mississippi State scoreless over the final 7:43 of the opening half to pull within 24-22 at intermission.
MSU however would simply not be denied as they outscored Georgia 26-16 in the second half to improve to 5-10 in conference play.
"Our kids came out and we threw the first punch," Schaefer said. "We really jumped on them early. We knew they were going to make a run, that's what a great coached team does. To withstand it and then just finished it off."
UGA (23-5, 11-4) was limited to just five field goals in each of the two halves and shot 18.2-percent from the floor. Georgia was just 2-of-22 behind the arc including 0-for-16 in the second half.
"I'm proud of my kids efforts against a great team and a great coach," Schaefer said. "You have no idea how hard it is to hold a team to five baskets, I don't care who it is. The No. 11 team (in the country) got five baskets in each half. Five! That's unbelievable. You've got to play your absolute heart and guts out."
Anne Marie Armstrong also had a double-double for UGA with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Shacobia Barbee added nine points while Jasmine Hassell had six points and a dozen boards.
State will conclude the regular season at 2 p.m. Sunday on the road at Auburn.