After a tough ball game and a one-point loss to South Dakota State earlier this week, Mississippi State looked like it might sleepwalk for a bit on Friday night against Alabama State.
The Bulldogs weren’t at their best at every stage but did have four players in double figures with doubles from Jessika and Denae Carter. It was good enough for the team to advance to a 3-1 start with an 81-46 win.
It wasn’t the greatest game for the Bulldogs, but a 35-point win with point production spread across the roster is a productive day at the office.
“We obviously took them for granted,” senior guard Asianae Johnson said. “We came out with the attitude that we were already going to beat them. We have to have the same intensity against every team we play against and have the same attitude that we’re going to win the game and get defensive stops.
Denae Carter has been back on track after a cruciate ligament rupture that happened against Texas A&M in January this year. Purcell was upset with himself for not giving Denae a chance to push himself a little more this week against SDSU, but the coach is on board now.
Denae finished the game with 13 points and 12 rebounds, marking her first double-digit scoring since December 20 last year against South Carolina State. It was also the first double-double since that ball game.
“I’m a much wiser coach playing Denae Carter,” Purcell joked. “I took her to the back of the bus (to SDSU) and told her I apologized. (Friday) she showed what she can do.
Along with Denae was a double double jessica carter. The senior center looked as comfortable as she has since the 2020-21 season and she played 23 minutes, scored 15 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had six blocked shots.
Also in double digits was freshman Debreasha Powe, who scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-3 from 3-point range in just 18 minutes. Powe played in front of the entire Meridian girls basketball team when her former high school teammates showed up to watch their game. Powe has hit double digits in all four collegiate games to start her career.
Anastasia Hayes had her second straight double-digit performance with 11 points and three assists. Though she didn’t score in double figures, Asianae Johnson was just as much of a spark off the bench as Denae. Both were huge and MSU squeezed out the lead.
“I call them both my sixth men,” Purcell said of Denae and Johnson. “Let’s talk about Asianae and the joy she brings to the game. If you’re a fan coming to the game you can’t help but get up from your seat because she’s smiling, she’s jumping, she brings such a great vibe. She’s good enough to start but that’s who she is, she’s ready to be for the team.
“Obviously with Denae, here she comes back like a machine. She was 6-for-7 and this was one kid who never shot outside of the paint last year. I couldn’t be happier as a coach to get such a performance off the bench.”
It was a rusty start for State, with the Bulldogs trailing 5-0 in the opening minutes of the game, but MSU would ultimately push forward to take a 24-12 lead after a quarter. That lead grew in the second quarter as MSU outplayed the Hornets 17-3 with the last 7 minutes and was on course for a 44-23 lead at halftime. MSU cruised from there.
The Bulldogs (3-1) held ASU to just 29% shooting and 22% from 3-point range. State would shoot 44% from the field and make 7-of-22 3-pointers. Rebounding continues to be something Purcell wants to work on since the Bulldogs only won the boards 49-40.
State was down 20 points from ASU’s 21 turnovers and the Bulldogs had 19 assists in the win. The Bulldog bench surpassed the Hornets 31-5 as 11 players got into the ball game and played key minutes.
MSU now faces a road trip to Puerto Rico next week for one final game. The Bulldogs return Sunday at the Humphrey Coliseum to face Colorado State in a 3 p.m. showdown. Purcell said the Rams will be a tough challenge and he’s hoping for a big crowd to neutralize the visitors.
“I need the Bulldog fan base here on Sunday — the state of Colorado is legit,” Purcell said. “They have great speed. They play a unique offense like we played at South Dakota State, but that’s the dribble drive. That’s the beauty of playing at home to try and get that home field advantage with that sixth man helping us pull off a tough win on Sunday.