No. 12 Mississippi State will make its seventh appearance in the NCAA Tournament today and will do so against an opponent it is very familiar with.
The fifth-seeded Bulldogs will meet No. 12 seed Tulane for the fourth time in three years at 1:30 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
MSU won the only meeting of record during that span, dispatching the Green Wave 77-68 during the opening round of the WNIT last year in Starkville. The other two outings were closed door scrimmages during Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer‘s first two seasons and were dominated by Tulane.
“I’m excited to be back in the NCAA Tournament where we belong,” Schaefer said. “We’ve obviously got a big chore in front of us now, as it should be in the tournament. We’re going to play a team that we’re a little bit familiar with. We probably could’ve saved some money and met halfway instead of having to go all that way east to play them.”
It will be the 11th time the two programs have battled on the hardwood having split the previous 10 meetings. State is 2-0 in the postseason against the Green Wave with both wins coming during the WNIT.
During last year’s victory, the Bulldogs featured five players that scored in double figures – Martha Alwal (15), Savannah Carter (15), Breanna Richardson (13), Dominique Dillingham (11) and Kendra Grant (10). All five return for this year’s match-up.
“(Tulane) is a hard-nosed team,” Grant said. “The first two scrimmages, they gave us a hard time and that says a lot about how hard they play. They gave us a run for our money during the WNIT last year too and it went pretty much until the end.”
The Green Wave enter the Big Dance with a 22-10 record and lost in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference to USF, 78-69. Tulane finished sixth in the conference standings overall with two losses coming to top-ranked Connecticut.
Lisa Stockton‘s starting five consists of three seniors and a junior who have played against the Bulldogs before and a freshman guard Kolby Morgan that paces the team with 12 points per game.
Mississippi State is also led by a freshman in Victoria Vivians, who is averaging 15.1 points and earned second team All-SEC accolades.
“We are different teams this year,” Stockton said. “We both have freshmen leading scorers and that makes us very different. But when you look at the past and our style of play and things like that, I definitely think that helps both of us. But it’s a new year and it’s a different venue. It’s a different place and it is a different level of intensity.”