Bulldogs rally past ULL to claim best start in school history

Morgan William

Morgan William

LAFAYETTE, La. – No. 20/21 Mississippi State made it officially the best start in women’s basketball program history with a 66-51 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Playing a Wednesday afternoon matinee in front of thousands of area elementary kids in the Cajundome, the Bulldogs out-scored the hosts 44-17 over the final 24 minutes to win their school-record 12th straight to start the season. The 12-game win streak also matched the longest stretch of success ever, as the 2004-05 Bulldogs also had a 12-game win streak.

MSU had previously started two other seasons with 11 straight wins.

“Take your hat off to Louisiana,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “They came out well-prepared. They attacked us and had us on our heels for the first 16 minutes of the game. We went to a 2-3 zone, which we had not practiced one minute since I came to Mississippi State.

“It was heck of a game. We didn’t play well at times.”

MSU rallied from a 12-point deficit in the game’s opening half. The Bulldogs scored the final 10 points of the first half and opened the second half equally strong with a 14-3 run to take control of the proceedings.

Freshman Morgan William, who had six of State’s final 10 points to close the first half, led the way for the Bulldogs with 21 points – her second 20-point outing of the season. Fellow freshman Victoria Vivians posted her third double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Martha Alwal fell just shy of a double-double with 14 points, nine rebounds. Alwal also blocked four shots, placing her one swat shy of eighth place in SEC career history.

“It was our third game in four days but that is not an excuse because we play a lot of kids,” Schaefer said. “Part of our problem is that we have not practiced a lot of late, due to finals and so many games. I am proud of my kids because we adjusted. We did a pretty good job on defense in something we haven’t practiced.”

After early atypical struggles on the defensive end this season, the Bulldogs have now held four of their last five opponents to 51 or fewer points.

Still, the Cajuns started strong with the game’s first five points and quickly built a 13-5 lead. Vivians hit a couple of long shots to keep the Bulldogs within striking range early. The Bulldogs were back within 21-16 on a 3-point play by Alwal.

The Cajuns were held the final 4:41 of the first half without a field goal. Back-to-back baskets by William started the half-ending 10-0 run that cut the halftime deficit to two.

After Ketara Chapel opened the second half with a game-tying jumper, the Bulldogs took their first lead on a Vivians 3-point basket at 37-34 with 18:47 left. By then, the Bulldogs were on lock down on the defensive end and the offense was beginning to heat up.

An 8-0 run, capped by a Vivians 3-pointer, stretched the lead to 46-37. ULL went almost six minutes without scoring during the stretch.

The Ragin’ Cajuns closed within six at 46-40 but MSU responded with the game’s next six points to move back out of danger.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 46 shots from the field (50.0 percent), 2 of 9 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 18 of 28 shots from the foul line (64.3 percent). The Cajuns hit 18 of 65 shots from the field (27.7 percent), 3 of 22 shots from 3-point range (13.6 percent) and 12 of 16 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).

MSU held a 47-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had seven assists and 24 turnovers, while the Cajuns had seven assists and 13 turnovers.

ULL (6-1) received 17 points from Keke Veal, 13 points from Jaylyn Gordon and 10 points from Kia Wilridge.

MSU remains on the road for two games in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic. The first opponent is Illinois-Chicago at 9:30 p.m. CT Saturday. The second contest will be against Miami (Ohio) at 6 p.m. CT Sunday.

MSU returns home to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 7 p.m. Dec. 29.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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