JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Moving on.
While the No. 16 Mississippi State women’s basketball team was the last to take the court at the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Bulldogs sent notice they plan to play awhile after taking a 63-46 win over Vanderbilt at Veterans Memorial Arena.
The 14-team conference tournament opened Wednesday but by earning the No. 3 seed, the Bulldogs earned one of four “double byes.” By the time MSU took the court, the tournament field was reduced to five teams and two hours later the Maroon and White made the final four.
MSU will face seventh-seeded Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday on ESPNU in the final of two semifinal round games. No. 1 seed South Carolina and No. 5 seed Kentucky meet at 4 p.m. Saturday.
MSU will play in the conference tournament semifinal round for the fourth time, including first time under fourth-year coach Vic Schaefer. It will State’s first appearance since 2010.
The win moved MSU to 25-6 overall, while Vanderbilt is now 18-14. MSU made it 25 wins in a season for only the second time in program history. The Bulldogs also beat the Commodores twice in a season for the first time since 2010.
“Give Vanderbilt credit because they had won three in a row,” Schaefer said. “We knew it would be this type of game. The first half was ugly. The second half, we were really able to execute some really good stuff.
“We didn’t play exceptionally well in the first half. Our defensive effort though was good. Once we stopped fouling and played more with our feet, we really played well on the defensive end.”
Dominique Dillingham led the Bulldogs with 12 points. Freshman Teaira McCowan had her best performance against a conference opponent with 11 points scored and five steals. Victoria Vivians added 10 points. Sherise Williams had a team-high seven rebounds.
MSU started hot and scored the game’s first eight points. A layup by Chinwe Okorie pushed the early lead to 10-2. The Bulldogs continued to excel on the defensive end. Vanderbilt was held to its lowest point total in a first quarter and trailed 12-6 after the opening period.
Despite having already played two tournament games, Vanderbilt competed and cut the lead back down to three at 20-17. MSU eased into halftime with a 27-21 lead.
“In the second half, we were more focused on the offensive end,” Dillingham said. “We were getting open looks, we just had to make shots. It was good to get over the nervousness from the start of the game. In the second half, we did a lot better job of executing on offense.”
The Maroon and White finally found separation late in the third quarter. Leading 33-30, MSU scored eight straight points. Breanna Richardson scored a pair of baskets as the Bulldogs built a 41-30 lead.
The Bulldogs then wore down the Commodores in the fourth quarter and eased to victory.
For the contest, MSU hit 23 of 57 shots from the field (40.4 percent), 2 of 9 shots from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 15 of 22 shots from the foul line (68.2 percent). Vanderbilt hit 12 of 37 shots from the field (32.4 percent), 3 of 9 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 19 of 23 shots from the foul line (82.6 percent).
MSU held a 32-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Commodores had seven assists and 27 turnovers.
Vanderbilt received 11 points from Rachel Bell.
(From MSU Media Relations)