JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mississippi State rang out 2015 on a positive note Wednesday afternoon with a dominating performance in the SEC/AAC Challenge.
Victoria Vivians scored 23 points and Morgan William added 15 points as No. 8 MSU knocked off No. 17 South Florida 68-58 at Jacksonville Veterans Arena.
Vivians tallied her 13th-straight game in double figures and her sixth contest of the year with 20-plus points.
Playing its final non-conference game of the season, MSU (13-1) won its eighth straight, while knocking off a ranked opponent for the first time this season.
“We beat a very good basketball team today,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “They are a Top-15 team. We feel happy and blessed to be able to get this type of win. They are a hard team to guard. I am so proud at how hard we played defensively. They run so many sets. It’s like guarding an NBA team.
“When you have to work that hard on one end of the floor, it can make it tough. We had 42 points in the first half. That is great offensive execution. Victoria hit some big buckets in the fourth quarter when we were dying on the vine.”
After spotting South Florida (7-3) the game’s first four points, MSU pulled ahead for good with a 13-0 run. A 3-pointer by Vivians broke a 10-10 tie. Vivians and Teaira McCowan followed with back-to-back baskets to cap the run for a 19-10 lead.
MSU held a 22-14 lead after one quarter.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs kept the defensive pressure up and continued to play well inside and out. Four straight points by William ran the advantage to 31-18 with 5:27 left in the half.
The Bulldogs pushed the lead to 16 at 37-21 on a basket by Vivians with 2:57 left.
MSU held a 42-30 lead at halftime.
In the second half, a 3-pointer by Kayla Nevitt helped push the lead to 19 at 53-34. Two free throws by Blair Schaefer ran the lead to 62-40 in the final minute of the third quarter.
South Florida held MSU without a field goal the first five minutes of the final quarter but could not get the deficit to single-digits again.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 26 of 60 shots from the field (43.3 percent), 3 of 11 shots from 3-point range (27.3 percent) and 13 of 18 shots from the foul line (72.2 percent). The Bulls hit 19 of 51 shots from the field (37.3 percent), 2 of 7 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 18 of 22 shots from the foul line (81.8 percent).
The teams were even at 35 in rebounds. MSU had eight assists and 20 turnovers, while South Florida had six assists and 24 turnovers.
For MSU, one of the nation’s top teams in forcing turnovers, it was the 10th time this season the Bulldogs have made a foe commit 20-plus turnovers.
“In the first half, we shot 50 percent from the field,” Schaefer said. “To hold them to 37 percent from the field is outstanding. I am really proud of Breanna (Richardson) and Ketara (Chapel). They did a great job. I’m also proud of Kayla and Blair coming off the bench and doing what they did.
“This is a solid win over a great basketball team. It’s a good way to finish non-conference play, because the gauntlet is here.”
Chinwe Okorie had a team-high 11 rebounds. William added three assists and two steals.
South Florida received 19 points from Laura Ferreira, 15 points from Alisia Jenkins and 12 points from Courtney Williams.
MSU opens Southeastern Conference play with a noon CT start Sunday at Florida. The contest will be televised nationally by the SEC Network.
(From MSU Media Relations)