Strong second half leads Bulldogs past Auburn

Victoria Vivians

Victoria Vivians

AUBURN, Ala. – A dominating second-half performance lifted the Mississippi State women’s basketball team to its third Southeastern Conference road win of the season Monday night.

Highlighted by the fourth career double-double by Victoria Vivians, No. 18/20 MSU led by as many as 21 points in the second half of a 59-48 win over Auburn at Auburn Arena.

“I am pleased with how we responded to end the first half (with a 15-2 run) after we were down seven,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We are on the road with a young team. You don’t know how they will respond. We just had to stop turning it over. We could defend them on the half court.

“We got some great looks once we stopped turning the ball over. Really pleased with our effort on out of bounds plays. Our defense really created some good offense for us.”

MSU improved to 21-2 overall and 6-2 in league play. The Bulldogs have won three straight conference games for the second time this season and claimed the best SEC start in school history.

Auburn fell to 9-11 and 0-8. It was MSU’s fifth all-time win at Auburn, second at five-year-old Auburn Arena and first on the plains since 2011.

Vivians led the offensive attack with 19 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double since Dec. 17 against Louisiana-Lafayette. Martha Alwal had 15 points and eight rebounds with all of the points and seven of the rebounds coming in the decisive second half.

Alwal also added three blocks to take sixth place on the SEC career chart with 298.

Breanna Richardson had 15 points, while Dominique Dillingham had six points, eight rebounds and five assists.

Both teams struggled from the field in the opening half. Still eight minutes into the contest, the Bulldogs had worked their way to an 11-5 lead.

Auburn responded with the game’s next 10 points. The Tigers took their largest lead at 20-13 with 5:26 left in the half. The Bulldogs had a stretch of more than six minutes with only one field goal before Vivians began her hot finish to the first half with a 3-point basket.

That score brought the Bulldogs within 20-16 but was only a foreshadowing of what was to come. Vivians scored 11 points during a 15-2 run as the Bulldogs took a 28-22 lead at halftime.

In the second half, the resurgence of Alwal led to a dominating performance.

A layup by Alwal ran the lead to 10 points at 32-22 less than two minutes into the second half. Still leading 45-35 with 10:38 left, MSU put together a 10-0 run to remove all doubt from the contest.

State hit back-to-back baskets to run the lead to 59-38 before Auburn ended the game with a 10-0 run over the final 4:17 of regulation time.

“Really pleased with Martha’s performance on the boards,” Schaefer said. “Victoria got a double-double and that is really big for a freshman. We are looking forward to being back home in the Hump (Thursday). We love playing in the Hump. We really need our students out. These kids deserve it. We have a fun team to watch.

“This team (Vanderbilt) stopped our streak earlier, so the kids will be really motivated. It is always fun to play in Starkvegas. The Hump is a great environment. It is quickly becoming one of the toughest places in the country to play.”

For the contest, MSU hit 22 of 60 shots from the field (36.7 percent), 3 of 17 shots from 3-point range (17.6 percent) and 12 of 15 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent). Auburn hit 18 of 45 shots from the field (40.0 percent), 2 of 5 shots from 3-point range (40.0 percent) and 10 of 13 shots from the foul line (76.9 percent).

MSU held a 38-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 17 turnovers, while the Tigers had nine assists and 23 turnovers. MSU scored 25 points off Auburn turnovers.

Auburn received 21 points from Brandy Montgomery and 11 points from Neydja Petithomme.

MSU returns home to face Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Thursday in a “White Out” game at Humphrey Coliseum. The contest will be available nationally on SEC Network +.

(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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