Lady Bulldogs Defeat Northwestern State 65-49

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer talked about pride and playing hard at halftime Friday night. The Bulldogs got the message loud and clear. After a lackluster first half, MSU found a second gear in the second half, easily rolling past Northwestern State 65-49 at the Humphrey Coliseum.

"I really enjoy being around these kids," Schaefer said. "Sometimes, it is hard to get them ready to go when the lights come on. You have to play for pride in your uniform. We want players excited about a chance to play for this university.

"The kids got the message at halftime. They played much better in the second half. Now, we got to find a way to come out of the gates playing like that."

Northwestern State (4-6) started the game strong, building a quick 13-4 advantage. The Lady Demons maintained a healthy advantage for most of the half. A layup by Jasmine Upchurch ran the Lady Demons' lead to 24-14.

"In the first half, we didn't come out with a lot of focus," MSU sophomore center Martha Alwal said. "We have to a do a better job of playing with more energy. At halftime, we got the message and I thought we really responded. We have to find a way to do that for an entire half."

The Bulldogs did end the first half with a 9-2 run. A pair of free throws by Katia May ran out the half as MSU trailed 31-29 at the intermission.

In the second half, MSU picked up its energy on both ends of the floor. Northwestern State only scored 18 points, including six field goals, over the final 20 minutes.

"Jessy Ward and JJ (Jerica James) really gave us a spark in the second half," Schaefer said. "On the first possession she was in there, we ran a set play for Jessy and she hit the 3-point shot. That really gave us a spark. We were much better on the defensive end in the second half.

"Jessy and JJ were a big reason for that run."

The Bulldogs pieced together a 15-0 run to erase a 33-32 deficit. Ward's trey pushed the lead to 37-33. James scored two baskets and Carnecia Williams added two free throws to push the advantage to 47-33.

Ward saw her most extensive playing time of the season, collecting those three points with an assist, steal and rebound in 12 minutes of play. James had eight points, including a 3-of-3 night from the field, also in 12 minutes.

MSU (7-5) put the clamps down defensively, forcing 13 second-half turnovers to run the advantage to 20 at 59-39 with 4:51 left in regulation.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 24 of 60 shots from the field (40.0 percent), 4 of 9 shots from the 3-point range (44.4 percent) and 13 of 22 shots from the foul line (59.1 percent). The Lady Demons hit 15 of 54 shots from the field (27.8 percent), 3 of 10 shots from 3-point range (30.0 percent) and 16 of 22 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent).

MSU held a 43-42 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and 12 turnovers, while the Lady Demons had six assists and 20 turnovers.

Alwal posted her fifth double-double of the season with 10 points, 13 rebounds for MSU. Carnecia Williams led the way with 16 points. May added a season-high 11 points while dishing out six assists.

"I really don't have a reason for why we have not started games better this year," Williams said. "So far, we really have been a second-half team this year. We are working hard to get better at that."

Jasmine Bradley led the Lady Demons with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

MSU faces a quick turnaround as it concludes a season-long five-game homestand against Troy at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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