January 3, 2014 11:15:36 AM
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A season-high matching 22 turnovers and heavy foul trouble hurt the Mississippi State women's basketball team Thursday night in its Southeastern Conference opener.
Florida shot a higher percentage and took advantage of the extra possessions to post an 82-72 victory at the O'Connell Center.
With the win, Florida improved to 11-3 and 1-0, while MSU fell to 13-2 and 0-1.
"We lost the game at the guard position," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said."We didn't get anything from Martha (Alwal) inside. They neutralized her. The advantage for them tonight was the guard positions. We couldn't get over the hump. Every time we could get it under 10, we missed a shot or we missed the front end of a one-and-one."
The Florida guard trio of January Miller, Jaterra Bonds, and Cassie Peoples went 20 of 41 from the field. Christin Mercer also was 6 of 12 off the bench.
Florida scored four-straight points to break a 9-9 tie. A 3-pointer by Carlie Needles extended the lead to 18-12. The Bulldogs closed within three, only to see the hosts score the next five points.
The Gators stretched the lead to 11 and later 14 before settling for a 40-30 halftime edge.
"We were a young, inexperienced, immature team on the road in the SEC," Schaefer said."We played absolutely awful and only lost by 10. We played them dead even in the second half. I am going to lose my mind if we give up 82 points in another game because I am a defensive guy.
"Some of our kids really fought all night and competed. Dominique (Dillingham) and (Jerica James) really competed. (Breanna Richardson) competed. I am proud of this team for fighting."
In her conference debut, Dillingham scored 16 points, giving her double-figure scoring in seven of her last eight games. Richardson posted her second straight double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. James added 12 points.
Martha Alwal was held scoreless in the first half and finished with six points. Kendra Grant played only nine minutes before fouling out on a 2-of-11 night from the field.
MSU closed within seven in the early stages of the second half only to see Florida stretch the lead to as many as 17 with 4 minutes, 16 seconds left.
MSU was 24 of 70 from the field (34.3 percent), 6 of 18 from 3-point range (33.3), and 18 of 28 from the free throw line (64.3). Florida was 29 of 62 from the field (46.8), 2 of 10 from 3-point range (20), and 22 of 28 from the foul line (78.6).
Florida held a 47-43 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 22 turnovers, while the Gators had 13 and 23.
Peoples paced Florida with 23 points, while Bonds had 18 and Miller and mercer added 12.
MSU will play host to Auburn at 2 p.m. Sunday.