November 23, 2012 9:05:11 AM
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico -- Martha Alwal posted her third double-double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Kendra Grant also scored 19 points Thursday in the Mississippi State University women's basketball team's 64-56 loss to the University of Central Florida in the final game of the Hardwood Tournament of Hope.
Alwal and Grant, both sophomores, combined to hit 12 of 25 shots from the field, including 13 of 17 shots from the free-throw line.
In the tournament, Alwal and Grant averaged 17.3 and 12.7 ppg., respectively. Alwal also hauled in 9.7 rebounds per contest, while blocking 1.7 shots in the three games.
"Kendra and Martha played 39 minutes today. When they are on and playing well, it is so obvious. For us as coaches, we see things they can continue to work on to be even better players," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "They have played a lot of minutes over three games, and we're proud of the way they gutted it out.
"We've had some kids affected by illness every game this trip, but I'm proud of the way they have been resilient and tried to fight through it. We haven't always played well, but we've played hard all three days. With this group, I'm very proud of them for that."
MSU (2-4) struggled with early turnover troubles. It gave away possession five times, as UCF scored the game's first 11 points. The Bulldogs answered with the next nine points, including six by Alwal.
MSU closed within one on two occasions before a layup by Andrea Hines capped a 9-2 run for UCF. That spurt pushed the Golden Knights to a 25-17 advantage.
The Bulldogs trailed by four on two more occasions before UCF took a 30-23 halftime advantage.
MSU posted its highest first-half shooting percentage, 47.8 percent, but had 12 turnovers.
UCF scored the first eight points of the second half to extend the advantage to 38-23. The Bulldogs broke the scoring drought with an Alwal free throw before Grant hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 41-29.
With 8 minutes, 58 seconds remaining, Grant hit two free throws to pull MSU within 45-35. Falling down again by as many 15, the Bulldogs made one final push. A 3-pointer by Jerica James brought MSU within 57-51. A 3-pointer by Grant made it 59-54 with 2:19 left.
UCF, however, answered with a 3-point play by Erika Jones to push the lead to 62-54.
Darriel Gaynor cut the deficit to six with 1:33 left, but the Golden Knights added a pair of free throws to clinch the win.
"I was proud of the kids. They played hard and showed resilience today. We finally got into a little bit of a rhythm offensively in the second half, something that has been a struggle for us all year," Schaefer said. "Rebounding continues to be a thorn in our side, but hopefully after a trip like this we can fix some things with a couple days of practice before we play Wednesday."
MSU hit 20 of 52 shots from the field (38.5 percent), 2 of 12 shots from 3-point range (16.7), and 14 of 19 shots from the foul line (73.7). UCF hit 22 of 57 shots from the field (38.6), 6 of 16 shots from 3-point range (37.5), and 14 of 23 shots from the foul line (60.9).
UCF held a 39-34 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had nine assists and 19 turnovers, while the Golden Knights had 16 assists and 16 turnovers.
Gevenia Carter scored 17 points for UCF, while and 13 from Kayli Keough added 13.
MSU will play host to Savannah State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Humphrey Coliseum.