STARKVILLE – Mississippi State continued its strong offensive play Sunday as the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the WNIT semifinals with a 93-83 win against Arkansas State Sunday evening in Humphrey Coliseum.
Freshman Morgan William followed a 19-point effort Friday with a game-high 29 points in Sunday’s win. The 29 points were the fifth-most ever by a Bulldog freshman and the most since Tysheka Grimes had 28 in 2007.
MSU (2-0) will face either West Virginia or Seton Hall in the semifinal round. A time and location will be finalized after West Virginia and Seton Hall play Monday night.
“It was a heck of a basketball game,” MSU third-year coach Vic Schaefer said. “I am really proud of our kids. It was not pretty. We made some decisions that were not smart, but we found a way to win. The kids played their hearts out. We made plays on both ends of the floor.”
In an offensive-filled first half, the Bulldogs scored six straight points to build a 25-16 lead. A 3-point basket by William extended the lead to double digits for the first time, at 32-22 with 7:18 left in the half.
William hit two more 3-point baskets over a two-minute stretch to extend the lead to 39-24 with 5:03 left in the half.
Arkansas State (1-1) closed within eight before the Bulldogs pushed the lead back to 11, 46-35, at halftime.
“We knew we had to make some defensive stops in the second half,” MSU sophomore guard Dominique Dillingham said. “We really made some stops after they got back into the game. We were able to get some steals and make some shots. That kept everybody’s confidence up.”
Dillingham finished 12 points, four rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal in 29 minutes of work.
“Dominique is everything we want in a player,” Schaefer said. “She was 4-of-8 from the field, 2-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-2 from the foul line, all while guarding the other team’s best player. Breanna (Richardson) played the way we need her to play for us to finish in the top seven (of the Southeastern Conference). Then Morgan had 29 points and was 13-of-16 from the foul line. That is a great stat line for a freshman.”
Arkansas State closed within four points at 49-45 with 17:31 left in the contest. The Bulldogs answered with a 14-2 run to run the lead out to a game’s best at 63-47 with 14:37 left in the contest.
Later in the half the Red Wolves closed within seven at 69-62, but once again the Bulldogs answered. A 3-pointer by William followed by a steal and layup by Richardson ran the lead back out to double digits. The Bulldogs again led by 15 at 90-75 with 1:50 left.
“We are playing with some confidence right now,” William said. “We have a lot to work on but we are excited about how we have played the first two games.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 29 of 62 shots from the field (46.8 percent), 9 of 17 shots from 3-point range (52.9 percent) and 26 of 33 shots from the foul line (78.8 percent). The Red Wolves hit 31 of 57 shots from the field (54.4 percent), 1 of 6 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 20 of 25 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent).
MSU held a 39-29 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 17 assists and 21 turnovers, while the Red Wolves had 14 assists and 22 turnovers.
Behind William, the Bulldogs had four other players in double figures. Richardson had 18 points while Victoria Vivians battled through a foul-plagued game to join Dillingham with 12 points each. Sophomore Chinwe Okorie contributed 10 points.
Richardson had a team-high nine rebounds, while William led the way with six assists.
Audrea Gamble paced Arkansas State with 28 points. Khadi Brown-Haywood added 15 points, Hanna Qedan added 14 points and Amanda Lawson added 12 points.
(From MSU Media Relations)