Mississippi State moved into sole possession of second place in the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball standings on the back of a strong defense Sunday afternoon.
No. 11 MSU forced 27 turnovers and held No. 21 Missouri to its lowest point total of the season to post a 52-42 victory at Humphrey Coliseum.
With its fourth straight win, MSU improved to 21-4 overall and 8-3 in league play – one-half game ahead of Florida, who did not play. Missouri fell to 18-6 and 5-6. The teams split the season series as Missouri won 66-54 at home last month.
MSU improved to 13-1 at home this season.
“Credit to the girls for playing some really great defense,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “On a day where we didn’t play well, we were good on the defensive side. Missouri is such a tough, physical team and we really guarded them and made it tough. Forcing 27 turnovers is amazing.”
Morgan William led the Bulldogs with 17 points, while Victoria Vivians added 13 points and Teaira McCowan added 10 points. Vivians also had a team-high seven rebounds and a career-best five steals.
“When your shots aren’t falling, you have to do other things to help the team win,” said Vivians, a sophomore guard, of two late steals that led to late lay-ins. “I always know my shots are going to come so I am going to keep taking them. You also have to play defense though and do the other things to win games like this.”
MSU used a suffocating defense to set the tone early in the contest. The Bulldogs immediately built an 11-point lead at 17-6 after one quarter. The Tigers kept coming though and had a couple of chances to take the lead in the second half.
Down 19-8, Missouri scored seven straight points to close within four. The Bulldogs went better than seven minutes in between field goals. However, the fast start was enough to give the Maroon and White a 23-18 lead at halftime.
“We knew it was important to come out and punch them first,” MSU junior guard Dominique Dillingham said. “Earlier this year, they really punched us in the mouth and kept attacking. We weren’t ready. This game we were able to win because we had the good start.”
In the third quarter, the MSU defense was even better, as Missouri only managed six shots from the field and hit none of them. The Tigers only managed nine points at the free-throw line in the quarter.
Still, the contest was in doubt when Missouri pulled within 35-34 with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter. MSU still only led by three at 45-42 with 1:31. Vivians and William followed with critical steals as the Bulldogs scored the final seven points in the game.
For the contest, MSU hit 18 of 55 shots from the field (32.7 percent), 1 of 10 shots from 3-point range (10.0 percent) and 15 of 22 shots from the foul line (68.2 percent). Missouri hit 14 of 44 shots from the field (31.8 percent), 2 of 12 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 12 of 16 shots from the foul line (75.0 percent).
Missouri held a 37-32 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had seven assists and 18 turnovers, while the Tigers had eight assists and 27 turnovers.
Missouri received 13 points from Sophie Cunningham and Jordan Frericks added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
MSU returns to the road for a Thursday matchup with No. 12 Texas A&M. The Bulldogs and Aggies tip at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
The Bulldogs enjoy an open date the following Sunday before returning home for a 6 p.m. start against Kentucky on Thursday, Feb. 18.
(From MSU Media Relations)