The top four teams will receive a bye in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which begins next Thursday in Duluth, Georgia. MSU does own the seeding tie-breaker with both Georgia and Vanderbilt, while the Lady Bulldogs will meet LSU for the only time this season on Sunday.
With the victory, the Lady Bulldogs improved to 18-10 overall and 9-6 in league play. The win clinched a winning record in league play for the fifth time in the program's history. The nine wins in conference play ranks second-best all-time. MSU has now eight of the last 10 meetings with the Tide, including three straight victories here on the UA hardwood. Alabama fell to 11-17 and 3-12 with the defeat.
"There were a lot of great things in this game," MSU head coach Sharon Fanning-Otis said. "However, we talk all the time about finishing. We didn't play well there at the end. In the second half, we played better defensively and played better together."
M-State led from start to finish Thursday night, much in similar fashion to the Lady Bulldogs' 77-44 win on Feb. 4 in the Humphrey Coliseum.
Despite starting 1-of-7 from the field, the Lady Bulldogs scored the game's first seven points. Alabama went more than five minutes before finally converting. A Rima Kolanda jumper capped the game's second 7-0 run and placed MSU on top, 14-2.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening half. However, a huge rebounding advantage allowed the Lady Bulldogs to take 12 more shots than the Lady Tide.
Down the back stretch of the first half, the Lady Bulldogs pieced together a 10-0 run. When Tysheka Grimes capped that run with a baseline jumper, M-State suddenly had a 26-8 lead with 5:17 left in the opening half.
The Lady Tide finally found some offensive momentum from there. Alabama closed the half on an 11-3 run cutting the deficit to 29-19 at halftime.
In the second half, MSU quickly regained the 18-point push. In the opening minutes of the half, Grimes and Alexis Rack hit back-to-back 3-point baskets. Grimes then converted a steal and fast break layup attempt to push the lead back out to 37-19 with 18:00 left in the contest.
"We played a lot harder in the second half," Fanning-Otis said. "We shot 59 percent in that half. We did a good job of making the extra pass and finding people. The way we started the second half was the key to the victory."
Mary Kathryn Govero followed with a pair of 3-point baskets. In the final half, MSU hit four of its first five shots from 3-point range and 11 of its first 16 shots from the field overall, running the advantage to 56-25 with 11:01 left in the contest.
The lead grew to as many as 38 midway through the second half.
For the contest, the Lady Bulldogs hit 29 of 65 shots from the field (44.6 percent), 9 of 21 shots from 3-point range (42.9 percent) and 4 of 6 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). The Lady Tide hit 19 of 59 shots from the field (32.2 percent), 3 of 11 shots from 3-point range (27.3 percent) and 6 of 11 shots from the foul line (54.5 percent).
MSU held a 46-36 rebounding advantage. The Lady Bulldogs had 12 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Lady Tide had 10 assists and 19 turnovers.
Govero paced the Lady Bulldogs with 20 points. Grimes was also in double figures with 16 points. Chanel Monkango had a team-high 11 rebounds. UA received 10 points from Celiscia Farmer.
MSU and LSU tip off at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge. No live television is scheduled for that event.