STARKVILLE, Miss., - Mississippi State stepped up its intensity and effort but still fell short to Florida 61-55 Thursday night.
The Lady Bulldogs could not overcome three starters out of the lineup due to injury and illness as they fell to 0-3 in conference play.
"Tonight everybody in here thinks we played the best game we've played all year," said MSU head coach Vic Schaefer. "That needs to translate into a victory. You hate to let one get away."
Darriel Gaynor missed the game with a foot injury while Sherise Williams is out 3-4 weeks with a stress fracture in her left foot. Carnecia Williams was also absent from the starting lineup due to illness but played 29 minutes off the bench after receiving two IVs prior to tipoff.
Florida shot 38.6-percent from the floor but it was at the free throw line where the Lady Gators gained the biggest benefit. Florida made 25-of-39 from the charity stripe while the Lady Bulldogs only went to the line seven times on the evening.
"I'm real frustrated with that," Schaefer said. "I can't comment on it but I don't think it's right."
Jaterra Bonds paced the Lady Gators with 17 points shooting 4-of-8 from the field and sinking eight free throws.
Kayla Lewis added 12 points while Vicky McIntyre and Sydney Moss each chipped in 10 points as Florida improved to 2-1 in the SEC and 13-4 overall.
"For us to be able to come out with a win in someone else's court who plays as hard as State does, I just think that's a great indication that our team is growing in the right direction," said UF head coach Amanda Butler.
The Lady Gators built a nine point lead during the first 10 minutes of action but State was able to tie the score by the 6:31 mark of the first half. The Lady Bulldogs went into the locker room trailing 30-25 at halftime.
Mississippi State matched the Lady Gators shot-for-shot in the second half but were whistled for 19 fouls in the final 20 minutes sending Florida to the charity stripe 28 times during that span.
The Lady Bulldogs did hold a brief one point lead at the 4:05 mark of the second half but were outscored 10-3 from that point on to drop to 8-8 overall.
"You've got to score down the stretch," Schaefer said. "You ain't going to hold anybody to zero. It's my job to get them home and I didn't get them home today."
MSU shot 33.8-percent from the field and knocked down 5-of-12 behind the arc including four 3-pointers by Kendra Grant.
"I can't sit here and be satisfied losing by six to Florida when we fouled them for their last six points," Schaefer said. "I just can't do it. It's not in my makeup. Yeah, we played hard today and I'm proud of them for competing. They feel pretty good about how hard they played but I don't think they are very happy about losing. I didn't bring them here and they are not writing me a check every two weeks to lose."
Grant led all scorers with 20 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
"I was really taking coaches' words to heart," Grant said. "He said to the bigs before the game in the locker room to be ready to rebound. He wants me to shoot and I've really taken that to heart, especially these last couple of games. Normally I look for my drive and have stepped away from shooting. But I think if I'm open I might as well take it and they were falling for me tonight."
Martha Alwal contributed her seventh double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds and also moved into second place all-time on the school's career shot block chart as only a sophomore.
The Lady Bulldogs venture back out onto the road Sunday for a 2 p.m. tipoff against LSU.