LaShowann Smith and Tenniqua Ransom each scored 11 points to pace Alabama A&M.
The win gave the Lady Bulldogs their fourth-consecutive season-opening victory dating back to a 79-75 victory over Grambling State that opened the 1998-99 campaign. MSU's last loss in a season opener came in the form of a 72-69 loss at Troy State on Nov. 18, 1997.
"When we finish above 50 percent from the field, we are doing good things," said Mississippi State head coach Sharon Fanning. "We just need to continue to take good shots and work on our off-the-ball movement. You saw a lot of people contribute in different ways tonight, so I think our depth is a definite strength. I'm real pleased with our play."
Although holding a 48-20 halftime lead, Mississippi State seemed to go cold for much of the opening eight minutes of the first half before a Thomas jumper signaled a flurry of scoring from both teams. Alabama A&M answered nearly every basket from the hosts during a one-minute stretch midway through the second half, but State took advantage of foul trouble by Alabama A&M to mount a 41-point lead two minutes later.
Kates' jumper at the 5:03 point gave MSU an 80-36 lead, but A&M used a scoring spurt to cut its deficit to 40 points a few short ticks later. State's defense clamped down, while Kates, Yennette Smith and Charmaine Johnson scored the game's final eight points before the buzzer, to provide the final.
Alabama A&M came out of the first half gates with aggression, but three fouls by the visitors allowed State to set the tone early. MSU cruised to a 21-point lead just 7:11 into the game, then took a 29 point lead on a Keisha Stringfellow three-pointer with 3:06 remaining. Mississippi State turned in a 57.1 first-half percent shooting effort to spark its efforts, while Alabama A&M struggled, shooting a dismal 30.8 from the field while collecting 16 turnovers.
Mississippi State will return to action on Sunday when the Lady Bulldogs suit up to host visiting Tennessee Tech in Humphrey Coliseum. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m.