STARKVILLE – A strong final stretch of the first half and a dominant second half allowed No. 23/25 Mississippi State to roll past Southeastern Louisiana 97-36 Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum.
In front of a crowd of 3,020, the Bulldogs improved to 8-0, the best start since the 2008-09 campaign. Southeastern Louisiana fell to 3-5 overall.
Mississippi State used a strong finish to the first half to open a 20-point halftime advantage. The Bulldogs’ defensive pressure took over in the second half as MSU out-scored the Lady Lions (3-4) 52-11.
“I certainly did not like the way we started the first 10 minutes, but I thought the next 10 were good. I thought the first 10 minutes of the second half went well,” MSU’s Vic Schaefer said. “We gave up some easy stuff in the press sometimes. That’s frustrating at times, but it does wear on the other team. They had to play some of their kids for several minutes, and I think they got tired. Then in the second half you see when it really kicks in. Teams have a hard time scoring, shots are short, layups are short and offenses are harder to run. I think from a fatigue factor we have had success doing that with a number of teams this year.
“All in all it’s great to be 8-0.”
Mississippi State was sparked by double-doubles from senior Martha Alwal and freshman Victoria Vivians. Alwal, the SEC’s career leader in double-doubles, claimed her 32nd with 15 points and 11 rebounds. She also added a pair of blocks in 18 minutes.
“I really wasn’t focused on (the double-double),” Alwal said. “I was just trying to go out there, get in the groove and play my hardest.”
Vivians nearly claimed a double-double in the second half, scoring 15 of her 17 points in the final 20 minutes and grabbing nine of her 11 boards in the second stanza.
“I was playing kind of slow in the first half,” Vivians said. “In the second half we had to come out and play better, so I just tried to play better to help my teammates.”
Fellow rookie Morgan William sparked the Bulldogs to the 20-point halftime lead, notching all 12 of her points in the opening half.
After a sluggish start to the game, Kendra Grant drained a jumper with 7:47 left in the first half to put MSU up 10 at 26-16.
Elizabeth Styles answered to trim the lead to eight, but a William layup sparked a 17-7 run to close the final 5:53 of the half.
William had 10 of State’s 17 points in the run, including a pair of free throws with a second remaining.
“Southeastern Louisiana’s kids, those guards, play hard. They really battled in there. Their coach does a great job with them, and they’re going to be great in their league,” Schaefer said. “I told the team after the first 10 minutes, ‘We have a great crowd of over 3,000 fans here on a Sunday afternoon, so let’s go. Let’s get it going. Let’s play defense. Impress me on the defensive end and then let’s get it going in transition.’”
After the Lady Lions shot 40 percent in the opening half, MSU stepped up the defensive intensity and held SLU to 4 of 25 (16 percent) for the final 20 minutes.
Mississippi State opened the second half with a 31-6 run. Vivians scored 13 during that stretch while Alwal added eight at the end of the run.
“Victoria struggled in the first half, but she got on fire in the second half. She went and basically got a double-double in one half,” Schaefer said. “You have to know that kid might miss three or four in a row, but she is probably going to come back and make three or four in a row too. If you don’t let her shoot it, she has no chance to make three or four in a row.”
A tip-in by Vivians put Mississippi State up 50 at 81-31 with 8:15 remaining. After Kayla Nevitt extended the lead to 85-31 with 5:27 left, fellow freshman LaKaris Salter scored 10 of the Dawgs’ last 12 points to create the final 61-point margin.
The Bulldogs connected on 36 of 90 (40.0%) shots from the field, 11 of 33 (33.3%) from 3-point range and 14 of 21 (66.7%) from the free-throw line.
Southeastern Louisiana went 14 of 50 (28.0%) from the floor, including 2 of 13 (15.4%) beyond the arc. The Lady Lions hit 37.5% (6 of 16) from the charity stripe.
Mississippi State claimed a plus-39 advantage on the boards, out-rebounding SLU 69-30. The SEC’s top offensive rebounding team dominated the offensive glass 33-4.
The Bulldogs had a 24-4 advantage in assists while winning the turnover battle 22-9. MSU had nine steals against just three for the Lady Lions.
Breanna Richardson added 10 rebounds, while Chinwe Okorie recorded nine boards to go with seven points.
Mississippi State wraps the current three-game homestand Thursday, hosting Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. on SEC Network +.
(From MSU Media Relations)