February 11, 2013 10:05:03 AM
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Mississippi State University women's basketball team recorded another first Sunday afternoon.
Thanks to a gritty defensive effort, MSU gave coach Vic Schaefer and his coaching staff their first Southeastern Conference road victory.
Junior point guard Katia May scored a career-high 16 points and matched a career-high with five steals to lead MSU to a 61-56 victory against the University of Missouri at Mizzou Arena.
Darriel Gaynor also added 14 points, her high for a SEC game this season, while Martha Alwal had 14 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocked shots to help MSU (11-12, 3-7) earn its third-straight SEC victory on a Sunday afternoon.
In the first meeting between the schools, the Bulldogs did it with defense. After Missouri (15-9, 4-6) shot 52.4 percent (11 of 21) in the first half, MSU limited Missouri to 26.1 percent (6 of 23) in the final 20 minutes. The Bulldogs also forced 20 turnovers (13 steals) and limited the Tigers to a 3-of-20 showing from 3-point range. Missouri, which hit 11 3-pointers last week in a home victory against the University of Tennessee last week, shot 38.6 percent from the field.
"I'm very proud of my players," Schaefer said. "I thought they played their hearts out today. They did a great job of taking the scouting report my staff put together and executing it. I thought we did a great job taking away what Missouri likes to do. (My group) is a very resilient group that keeps working hard."
There were six lead changes and neither team led by more than six points. The Bulldogs hit 10 straight free throws in the final 2 minutes, 23 seconds.
"Those first couple of losses were really hard on us," Alwal said. "But we just had to buy into the system even more. I think as a team we stayed together even more when we were down. We talked to each other and kept each other up. We believed in each other."
MSU established an inside presence early with Alwal, who scored a couple of early baskets as the Bulldogs built a 13-8 advantage.
Missouri responded with an 8-2 run to grab a 16-15 lead. However, the Bulldogs already were scattering the Tigers on offense. MSU forced 13 first-half turnovers and created numerous fast-break opportunities.
A jumper by Alwal helped MSU reclaim a four-point lead before Missouri battled back for a 25-25 tie at halftime.
In the second half, the Bulldogs hit 16 free throws and took care of the basketball. MSU committed 11 turnovers --its second-lowest total in a conference game.
"We were just patient," May said. "We were patient in what the defense gave us and executing what coach planned for us."
The Bulldogs trailed 37-31 before Gaynor started the rally. She hit three of her four conference season-high four 3-pointers in the final half. Gaynor brought the Bulldogs within two on the second of her back-to-back treys. A 3-pointer by May gave MSU a 42-40 lead with 11:02 left. It didn't relinquish the lead the rest of the way, as Missouri had a seven-minute stretch without a field goal.
"Missouri shot 26 percent in the second half," Schaefer said. "You don't do that and force 20 turnovers without getting out and playing your heart out. That's what we have been trying to teach them is being competitive and playing your absolute best representing Mississippi State."
MSU was 18 of 54 from the field (33.3 percent), 6 of 11 from 3-point range (54.5 percent), and 19 of 25 shots from the foul line (76.0 percent). Missouri held a 38-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 11 turnovers, while the Tigers had nine assists and 20 turnovers.
Alwal posted her 12th double-double. The 12 double-doubles is the most by an MSU player since LaToya Thomas had 12 in 2002-03.
Liene Priede led Missouri with 14 points, while Bri Kulas and Liz Smith each added 10 points apiece for the Tigers.
MSU will play at 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Mississippi.