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Alwal leads Mississippi State past Bison in women's basketball

North Dakota State’s Miki Stephenson, right, and Mississippi State’s Martha Alwal battle for position under the basket Tuesday at the Bison Sports Arena. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO – Tuesday night didn’t feel like a road game for Mississippi State center Martha Alwal even though her team wasn’t playing anywhere near Starkville.

Alwal scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to spark the Bulldogs to a 72-62 victory against North Dakota State in nonconference women’s basketball at the Bison Sports Arena.

Alwal, who is from Worthington, estimated as many as 60 friends and family were in Fargo to show their support, many wearing maroon Mississippi State T-shirts.

“It was exciting for me,” Alwal said. “I had a blast out there.”

The Bison hung with the Bulldogs, who play in the Southeastern Conference, into the second half before Alwal and her teammates started to pull away.

“We’re right there,” Bison head coach Carolyn DeHoff said. “It’s a message that we keep reminding them about.”

NDSU (3-8) has lost four consecutive games, but DeHoff was pleased with her team’s effort against Mississippi State, which improved to 11-1 overall.

“It’s a quality opponent that I thought our kids really kept their composure,” DeHoff said.

Bison sophomore Marena Whittle sank a 3-pointer that tied the score 34-34 with 18 minutes, 44 seconds to play in the second half. The Bulldogs, however, countered with the next nine points to forge into the lead for good. The 6-foot-4 Alwal started that rally with an inside basket before adding a free throw. Freshman forward Breanna Richardson capped the rally with a basket in the paint to give the Bulldogs a 43-34 lead with 15:56 remaining in the second half.

Alwal scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the second half. Her point total tied her career high. Alwal’s cheering section, which was located behind the Mississippi State bench, chanted her name in the final minute of the game.

“It’s really neat playing in front of my family,” said Alwal, who said a large group of her fans took a charter bus from southern Minnesota to Fargo. “I am really glad I had the chance to do that.”

The Bison struggled to find the range in the second half, shooting 32 percent (11 of 34) from the field. Mississippi State shot 34 percent (11 of 32) from the floor in the second half, but grabbed 12 offensive rebounds after halftime. The Bulldogs had a 32-16 rebounding edge in the final 20 minutes.

“That’s tough,” Bison junior Brooke LeMar said of keeping Mississippi State off the glass. “Even when you do box them out, they have those long arms over you. There is nothing you can do about it.”

LeMar paced the Bison with 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the floor. The 5-foot-6 guard drained a 3-pointer that gave NDSU a 20-18 lead with 6:17 to play in the first half. That was the only lead of the game for the Bison, who trailed 32-31 at halftime.

“We played well,” LeMar said.

The Bison committed three turnovers in the second half and finished with 11 for the game. DeHoff also thought that was a positive against Mississippi State, which was forcing 26.3 turnovers per game entering Tuesday.

“Our kids battled,” DeHoff said. “If our kids just stick with it, it will turn into our favor.”

MISSISSIPPI STATE (11-1): Chapel 2-10 2-2 6, Alwal 8-12 9-16 25, Dillingham 2-6 1-2 5, Grant 6-21 2-2 14, James 1-4 0-0 2, Richardson 1-4 2-2 4, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, May 3-7 4-4 10, Foster 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 1-5 4-6 6. Totals 24-70 24-34 72.

NDSU (3-8): Johnson 1-5 2-2 4, Whittle 7-13 1-1 17, Stephenson 1-4 0-0 2, LeMar 9-18 1-2 21, Whatman 2-6 0-0 4, Becken 1-3 8-10 10, Keena 2-6 0-0 4, Breske 0-3 0-0 0, Spier 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-60 12-15 62.

Half: MSU 32, NDSU 31. 3-point goals: MSU 0-7 (Dillingham 0-2, Grant 0-3, James 0-1, Carter 0-1), NDSU 4-17 (Johnson 0-3, Whittle 2-4, Stephenson 0-1, LeMar 2-3, Whatman 0-3, Becken 0-2, Breske 0-1). Total fouls: MSU 17, NDSU 25. Rebounds: MSU 56 (Alwal 15), NDSU 34 (Whittle 8). Assists: MSU 11 (May 6), NDSU 8 (LeMar 3). Steals: MSU 6 (Carter 3), NDSU 2 (LeMar, Spier). Turnovers: MSU 10 (Grant 3, Richardson 3), NDSU 11 (LeMar 3, Becken 3).

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