COLUMBIA, Mo.– When Mississippi State had no answers on the offensive end, the Bulldogs simply turned their game up on the defensive end.
On a frigid shooting afternoon for both teams, No. 17/18 MSU found its offensive spark at just the right time to pull off a 53-47 victory over Missouri in its first Southeastern Conference road game of the season at the Mizzou Arena.
“Our defense obviously caused some problems for them there late,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We turned them over and got some transition layups. We did a good job getting to the line in the second half, shooting 30 free throws in the second half after we shot two in the first half.
“That is on us for not being aggressive enough. It was an ugly win but we will take a bunch more of them just like it.”
MSU improved to 17-0 while moving to 2-0 in league play for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The Bulldogs have now won all four series meetings against the Tigers. Missouri is now 10-5 and 0-2.
The Bulldogs have now held nine opponents to 50 or fewer points in a contest this season.
“Getting the first conference road win is an accomplishment because we didn’t play well,” MSU sophomore forward Breanna Richardson said. “In the second half, we had turn up the intensity on defense and be more aggressive. It started with me. I tried to bring the juice and get my teammates involved.”
Both teams started slow offensively and battled hard for early separation. Missouri then pieced together a 7-0 run to take a 13-5 lead with 12:06 left in the half.
Kendra Grant then drained a 3-pointer but the Bulldogs went close to six minutes before Victoria VIvians hit another 3-pointer for her team’s next score.
Dominique Dillingham followed with a 3-pointer but the Bulldogs needed a 7-0 run over the final 3:23 of the half to take a 21-19 lead at the intermission.
In the second half, the Bulldogs managed only one field goal over the first 10 minutes.
Missouri grabbed the game’s largest lead at 34-25 after a 3-pointer by Morgan Eye with 10:30 left in the contest.
The Bulldogs then started its comeback on the defensive end.
A steal by Chinwe Okorie led to a layup by Richardson. Seconds later, a steal by Dillingham led to another layup by Richardson.
The Bulldogs pulled within one on a 3-pointer by Jerica James and took the lead for good at 37-36 on a layup by Vivians with 7:10 left in the contest. The Bulldogs eventually scored 12 straight points to take a 44-36 lead with 3:46 left. The run was capped by another basket from Richardson.
Missouri closed within three at 50-47 with 39 seconds left. The Bulldogs closed the contest with Vivians, James and Dillingham each splitting a pair of free throws to create the final margin.
“For whatever reason, offensively we set the game back 20 years,” Schaefer said. “They dared us to shoot it. We couldn’t get the ball inside. We won not playing our best. We won because we grinded it out defensively on every possession.
“We held a great shooting team to 29 percent from the field on their home floor. There are a lot of positives we can take from this game, but we need to finish games better.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 16 of 55 shots from the field (29.1 percent), 5 of 17 shots from 3-point range (29.4 percent) and 16 of 32 shots from the foul line (50.0 percent). The Tigers hit 15 of 54 shots from the field (27.8 percent), 6 of 20 shots from 3-point range (30.0 percent) and 11 of 16 shots from the foul line (68.8 percent).
Missouri held at 49-43 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had five assists and 22 turnovers, while the Tigers had 10 assists and 27 turnovers.
James paced the Bulldogs with a career-high 17 points on a 4 of 8 night from the field, 2 of 4 night from 3-point range and 7 of 11 night at the foul line. Richardson added nine rebounds. Okorie had three of the Bulldogs’ 12 steals. Overall, MSU scored 25 points off Missouri turnovers.
Maddie Stock led Missouri with 16 points, while Eye finished with a double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds).
MSU returns home for Thursday night matchup with Arkansas. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. in the Humphrey Coliseum with the game being televised regionally by Fox Sports Net South.
Prior to Thursday’s game, fans can celebrate the great start at Tuesday’s Hail State Hoops Luncheon. The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. in Mize Pavilion, and cost is $12 per person.
Fans can RSVP by calling (662) 325-0198 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(From MSU Media Relations)