HATTIESBURG – Mississippi State turned in a defensive effort of historical proportions Sunday afternoon.
Playing in-state foe Southern Mississippi, the Bulldogs allowed a school-record eight points in the first half while also setting a new standard by allowing one field goal. The best defensive effort of the season continued in the second half as No. 22 Mississippi State beat Southern Mississippi 73-46 before a national television audience in the Reed Green Coliseum.
“We had so much energy in the first half on the defensive end,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We got out in the passing lanes and caused them a lot of problems. I loved our focus on that end. We have talked about how that is an area where we have to be better at. We were really great there on the defensive end in the first half.”
MSU has now won three straight in the series. The Bulldogs are off to a 10-0 start for just the third time in program history. MSU has twice opened the season with 11-0 starts, and this year’s squad can match that mark at 7 p.m. Monday when MSU welcomes Mississippi Valley State to the Humphrey Coliseum.
The Bulldogs fell below their average of 89.3 points per game but made up for it by forcing a season-high 32 turnovers and totally suffocating the Golden Eagles on the defensive end.
In the opening half, Southern Miss (6-3) made only 1-of-17 field goal attempts. The Bulldogs forced 21 turnovers in the opening stanza alone. The Bulldogs also found the going tough on the offensive end but were able to get things in gear in the final 20 minutes of play.
State built an early 8-0 lead on a 3-point basket by Dominique Dillingham. The Bulldogs scored game’s first 10 points and later grew the advantage to 23-2 after a 3-point basket by Jerica James and a layup from Savannah Carter.
Brooke Rhodes hit Southern Miss’ first field goal with 1:50 left in the half. The Bulldogs led 26-8 at halftime.
“We didn’t score a lot in the first half,” Schaefer said. “The second half was much better. I am glad Breanna Richardson knew when the bus left and that she was on it. She played really well today. We only had two players in double figures but we have a lot of weapons. It is hard to guard us when you have that many weapons.”
The Bulldogs reverted to form in the second half by scoring 47 points. MSU hit 16-of-26 shots (61.5 percent) from the field in the second half.
A 6-0 run ran the lead to 38-13 after two free throws by Martha Alwal. The Bulldogs pushed to a 30-point advantage on a Blair Schaefer free throw with 3:39 left in regulation.
For the contest, Mississippi State hit 26 of 55 shots from the field (47.3 percent), 4 of 13 shots from 3-point range (30.8 percent) and 17 of 22 shots from the free throw line (77.3 percent).
The Golden Eagles hit 14 of 48 shots from the field (29.2 percent). They entered Sunday as one of the top teams in the nation shooting the 3-pointer, but the Bulldogs held them to 1 of 10 (10.0 percent). USM hit 17 of 27 shots from the foul line (63.0 percent).
Southern Miss held a 39-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and 21 turnovers, while the Golden Eagles had eight assists and 32 turnovers.
Richardson had 12 points to pace the Bulldogs, while Alwal added 10 points and a team-high five rebounds. Victoria Vivians was held to single digits (seven points) but did manage four rebounds, three assists and three steals in 27 minutes. Kendra Grant added four points, becoming the 21st Bulldog with 1,000 career points.
Jerontay Clemons paced Southern Miss with 16 points. Kierra Jordan added 11 rebounds.
Prior to Monday night’s contest against MVSU, the Bulldogs will host their third Hail State Hoops Luncheon.
The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. in Mize Pavilion, with doors opening at 11:15. Cost is $12, and fans who RSVP by calling (662) 325-0198 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org will be entered for the chance to win a door prize.
Monday’s luncheon will be State’s annual Christmas edition featuring the Hail State Hoops’ 12 Days of Christmas.
(From MSU Media Relations)