By LEE ADAMS
Mississippi State held on to defeat Xavier 71-65 Monday night at Humphrey Coliseum, using a first-half comeback to pave the way to the win.
The Lady Bulldogs (2-0) trailed early as Xavier (1-1) jumped out to an early eight-point lead, but the Lady Bulldogs rallied the last 15 minutes of the half to take the lead. The Musketeers made a run late in the second half but MSU was able to hold on to pick up the win.
"I feel like we showed some toughness down the stretch," said MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis. "I felt like when we had a 13-point lead I had hoped that we could put a team away, but that's something we have to grow into. It is a great game to learn from and find a way to be tough enough to win."
One player who was tough enough was freshmen center Martha Alwal, who was named as Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week on Monday. She had another big night for the Lady Bulldogs as she picked up her offensive production in her second career game as she put up 14 points. Also, she was able to pick up her second double-double in as many games by grabbing 11 rebounds. Her rebounds and points went hand-in-hand for the most part as she scored the majority of her points after picking up a rebound.
"I was always in the right spot at the right time, so it was easier for me to get rebounds," said Alwal.
After Alwal started her career with a double-double on Friday, Fanning-Otis said that she needed to pick up her offense, which she seemed to do last night.
"She came up with some huge buckets that we had to have," said Fanning-Otis. "She scored and what was good about how she scored was that there was an offensive board, a pick-and-roll and being in the right place at the right time. She did some big things for us and she was a big factor in this basketball game."
Other Lady Bulldogs who seemed to have an impact on the game where Diamber Johnson and Porsha Porter. Both Johnson and Porter seemed to be driving to the basket all night and Waugh feels that was MSU's game plan.
"Their game plan was to drive to the basket and go off the bounce," said Waugh. "They continued to do that all game long, and it eventually just wore us down by the of the game."
Something that seemed to be in MSU's game plan was stopping Xavier's Tyeasha Moss. Moss picked up 14 points as she played in all 40 minutes of the game, but for the most part the Lady Bulldogs were able to contain her.
"Mississippi State knew Moss was our go to player," said Waugh. "They focused on taking her out of the game, she got a couple of good looks, but other than that not much else."
Moss helped lead Xavier to a 54.8 percent shooting performance in the first half.
"She (Moss) is a very capable player," said Fanning-Otis. "Porter started out on her, but then I switched her to the point guard."
Porter, who is known for her defense, showed her offensive skills as she put up 14 points.
"I try to bring energy to the team as much as possible," said Porter. "Everybody knows that I'll bring defense, so that's what i try to do so I can make my team better all around."
Johnson, who's a senior, had a team-high 21 points and might have enjoyed the win over Xavier a little more than her teammates.
"It feels really great to get this win," said Johnson. "I've been here for four years and we've never beaten Xavier. it was nice to get a little taste of revenge."
The Lady Bulldogs will be back in action at The Hump on Thursday night to take on Alcorn State. Tip off is set 7 p.m.