STARKVILLE – Victoria Vivians’ lone 3-point basket of the game proved to be the game-winner Sunday afternoon.
Vivians’ 3-pointer from the corner with 55 seconds remaining gave the Bulldogs the lead for good as No. 17/19 Mississippi State won a 63-61 overtime thriller against No. 13/14 Texas A&M in a Southeastern Conference game played before a crowd of 4,651 at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU improved to 23-3 overall and 8-3 in league play, while Texas A&M fell to 18-6 and 6-4. State’s 23 wins rank second-most in school history, one back of the all-time record set in 1999-00 and 2002-03.
The Bulldogs beat the Aggies for the first time in four series meetings and maintained third place in the conference standings with five league games remaining.
Martha Alwal posted the 33rd double-double of her career, most among active SEC players, with a season-high 16 points and 10 rebounds to pace the MSU offensive attack. Alwal was limited in the first half due to foul trouble but scored 10 of her points in the second half and overtime.
Alwal’s 10 rebounds moved her past Sharon Thompson (1994-98) into second place in MSU career history with 944 boards.
Freshman Morgan William had her best SEC outing with 15 points, including 10 points in the second half and overtime.
“I’m so proud of the kids for their effort,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “It was a tremendous basketball game between two tremendous teams. It is rewarding to see where we were and to see where we are now. What a great crowd and a great atmosphere. I really want to get this team to the NCAA tournament for the three seniors we inherited.
“I want to do it for the whole team. However, I really want to do it for the three seniors. They are really special to us.”
Both teams found the going tough offensively as two of the conference’s premier defenses held the upper hand. The Bulldogs were also working around early foul trouble for both Alwal and Vivians.
Texas A&M built a 16-12 lead midway through the first half. The Bulldogs closed back within a point before falling down by eight points at 26-18 with 5:11 left in the half.
Thanks to strong play from Breanna Richardson and William, the Bulldogs battled back even. A trey by William capped an 8-0 run and tied the game at 26.
Texas A&M, though, eased into halftime with a 32-28 advantage.
“To see how hard these kids work every day and to see them rewarded against a great university means a lot,” Schaefer said. “If we are going to have a chance to have a bye in the SEC Tournament, this is one of those games we had to have.”
In the second half, Texas A&M built a 40-32 lead with 15:33 left.
The Bulldogs closed within two points at 41-39 with 9:39 left when Ketara Chapel spit a pair of free throws. The Bulldogs continued to take the ball inside and get to the line.
A layup by William tied the game at 44 and two free throws by Richardson pushed the MSU lead to 46-44.
William hit three baskets during the stretch run for the Bulldogs. A Kendra Grant jumper just inside the 3-point arc tied the game at 53 with 1:12 left. The Aggies missed the final two shots of regulation.
The Aggies scored the first four points of the overtime period. State used free throws from Grant and William to cut the deficit to one with 2:50 to play, but Texas A&M hit three of four attempts at the stripe to build the lead back out to four, 61-57, with 1:58 to play.
Richardson answered with a layup to trim the TAMU lead to one before Vivians turned on the baseline and buried what would be the winning 3-pointer.
The Bulldogs intercepted a pass with 21 seconds left, and Savannah Carter iced the win with one of two free throws with two seconds left.
For the contest, MSU hit 20 of 62 shots from the field (32.3 percent), 3 of 13 shots from 3-point range (23.1 percent) and 20 of 34 shots from the foul line (58.8 percent). Texas A&M hit 17 of 55 shots from the field (30.9 percent), 1 of 2 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 26 of 38 shots from the foul line (68.4 percent).
Texas A&M held a 49-45 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 14 turnovers, while the Aggies had five assists and 14 turnovers.
“I am excited,” Alwal said. “Getting the win today was really big for this team. We have worked so hard. Since my freshman year, we hadn’t beaten Texas A&M, so this really meant a lot to us.”
Courtney Walker paced Texas A&M with 25 points while Courtney Williams added 14 points. Khaalia Hillsman had a team-high 13 rebounds.
MSU returns to action Thursday with a road trip to No. 11/12 Kentucky. The Bulldogs and Wildcats meet at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.
(From MSU Media Relations)