STARKVILLE – Mississippi State ushered out the regular season on a high note Sunday afternoon.
The 16th-ranked Bulldogs earned the No. 3 seed in this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and closed out the regular season on a three-game winning streak after posting a 61-52 win over Alabama at Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU improved to 24-6 overall and 11-5 in league play. The Bulldogs tied for second in the conference standings, the highest finish in program history, while matching last season’s school record for conference wins.
MSU will play the last quarterfinal game (at approximately 7:25 p.m.) on Friday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. The Bulldogs meet either Ole Miss, Vanderbilt or Georgia.
“It was not pretty but you take them how you can get them,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “The Lord has blessed Mississippi State with tough, competitive kids and a fine basketball team. We lost four quality seniors from a year ago. To see the youth on this team step up and win 24 games in incredible.
“The youth really stepped up today.”
Alabama fell to 15-14 and 4-12. The Bulldogs won their third straight in the series, while sending the lone senior Sherise Williams out on a high note.
The Bulldogs scored eight straight points to build a 17-6 lead late in the first quarter.
Alabama responded with the game’s next 12 points to grab an 18-17 lead. The Bulldogs then grabbed a 21-18 lead on a Blair Schaefer 3-pointer.
The lead switched hands a couple of times before the Bulldogs eased into halftime with a 28-25 lead.
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs turned to the defensive end of floor to grab some separation. A basket by Dominique Dillingham, two free throws by Victoria Vivians and a free throw by Chinwe Okorie made it five straight points for the Bulldogs and a 39-30 lead.
MSU would then stretch the lead back to 10 at 46-36 behind a bucket and a free throw from Jazzmun Holmes in the final seconds of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs would stretch the lead to 12 before the Crimson Tide tried to come back one last time. Dillingham hit key baskets on back-to-back possessions to hold the visitors at bay.
Dillingham led the Bulldogs with 17 points, her second-highest total of the season, on an 8-of-12 night from the floor. Vivians added nine points to become the 22nd player in program history to score 1,000 points. Vivians, who had a team-high nine rebounds, became just the fifth MSU player to reach the milestone in two seasons.
For the contest, MSU hit 21 of 53 shots from the field (39.6 percent), 3 of 13 shots from 3-point range (23.1 percent) and 16 of 22 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent). Alabama hit 19 of 50 shots from the field (38.0 percent), 2 of 9 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 12 of 20 shots from the foul line (60.0 percent).
Alabama held a 36-29 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 10 assists and 13 turnovers, while the Crimson Tide had 10 assists and 20 turnovers.
Alabama received 11 points from Meoshonti Knight and 10 points from Breanna Hayden.
(From MSU Media Relations)