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MSU's Alwal earns SEC honor

 

Adam Minichino

 

The numbers still stun Martha Alwal a day later. 

 

Even though the Mississippi State junior center had a little more than 24 hours to grasp the notion she scored 25 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in a victory against Ole Miss on Sunday, Alwal still thought the idea was "surreal." 

 

Now imagine if Alwal really crashes the boards. 

 

"I don't think I crashed that much, so when I hear I had 23 rebounds I think maybe they overcounted," Alwal said. "I am stunned by that number." 

 

Alwal matched her career-high point total and set a new career-best mark for rebounds in a game in MSU's 72-70 overtime victory at Humphrey Coliseum. Coupled with her 18-point, 15-rebound effort Thursday in a loss to Alabama, Alwal was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week. Alabama's Ashley Williams was named SEC Freshman of the Week. 

 

Alwal notched her totals by playing all 90 minutes in the overtime games. Her performances helped her record her eighth and ninth double-doubles of the season and 27th and 28th for her career, which is the most among active SEC players. 

 

"I am pretty happy about it," Alwal said. "It is an individual award, but I take it as a team award because the coaches want me to have the ball and my teammates do a good job of getting me the ball." 

 

Alwal received another piece of good news Monday. The Worthington, Minn., native was named one of three finalists for the 2014 C Spire Wireless Gillom Trophy. Alwal was nominated with Ole Miss' Tia Faleru and Southern Miss' Jamierra Faulkner. Alwal on the award last season. 

 

This season, Alwal leads MSU in scoring (15.9 points per game), rebounding (8.9 per game), and blocked shots (72). She is seventh in the SEC in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and second in blocked shots. The 38 rebounds she had last week moved her into fifth place on the school's all-time list with 755. 

 

"She played 45 minutes in back-to-back games and had 38 rebounds, so I don't know what else she could have done," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. 

 

Schaefer has encouraged Alwal to do more and to push herself to be a dominating force ever since he arrived prior to the 2012-13 season. Schaefer joked that he always thought Alwal was capable of posting the totals but that it would take her five games to do it. He said her efforts last week shows she can be someone the Bulldogs (18-10, 5-9 SEC) can count on to carry them, just like she did Sunday when the team struggled with its shooting. 

 

"We know she is capable of it. Now we have to get the inconsistency out of her game. That is the next step for her," Schaefer said. "She has her moments and her nights when she is really good. But then there are nights when she might go against somebody her size (6-foot-4) and instead of taking that challenge and still being that aggressive attacker she might get her shot blocked early and back off her aggressiveness." 

 

Alwal said she is working on that. She might take a page from junior guard Savannah Carter, who has said she hears Schaefer's voice in her head as a reminder to keep working hard. Alwal laughed when asked how Schaefer's prodding have motivated her, but she also said she is more comfortable taking on that role as a go-to scorer and a presence in the lane on defense. 

 

"I think I am doing a lot better and am more comfortable with the ball in my hand," Alwal said. "I am trying to be that player that coach Schaefer wants me to be. Before I used to shy away from that and I didn't want to be that player. I don't think I wanted to be that player because I didn't want to disappoint anyone and I felt if I didn't do as well that maybe people would think she isn't that good of a player. It is hard for me, but I am trying to embrace that aspect of the game." 

 

As for winning a second Gillom Trophy in as many years, Alwal said she won't think about that and will try to remain focused on MSU's final two regular-season games -- Thursday at home against Kentucky and Sunday at Georgia. 

 

Williams averaged 18 points and 10.5 rebounds in Alabama's wins against MSU and Vanderbilt last week. She pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds in the overtime win against the Bulldogs, which was the most for a Tide player since 2011. 

 

Faleru, a junior forward, leads the Rebels in scoring (17 ppg.) and rebounding (9.9). She leads the SEC in rebounding and is ranked No. 3 in scoring. Faleru is the only player in the league ranked in the top three in scoring and rebounding. The Gillom Trophy will be presented at 11:30 a.m. Monday at a luncheon at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Richard Williams, who guided MSU to the Final Four in 1996, will be the featured speaker. For tickets to the banquet, call 601 982-8264. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @cdispatch.com

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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