JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mississippi State, welcome to Championship Sunday.
No. 16 MSU advanced to the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game with a 58-48 win over Tennessee Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Arena.
Third-seeded MSU will now face top-seeded and conference regular season champion South Carolina at 1:30 p.m. Sunday for the conference championship. That game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Mississippi State will be playing in the title game for the second time in program history. The other came in 2000, with MSU falling to Tennessee 70-67.
Sunday’s title game is a rematch of the regular season meeting against South Carolina, a game the Gamecocks won 57-51 in front of a crowd of 10,626, the fourth-largest crowd in Humphrey Coliseum history.
After snapping a 36-game losing streak to Tennessee in the regular season, Mississippi State claimed a second-straight win against the Lady Vols thanks to 30 points from sophomore Victoria Vivians and a standout defensive effort.
“The Lord blessed us with a great team at Mississippi State,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “The team is tough, hard-nosed and competitive. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids. I am proud of our effort. These kids wouldn’t be denied.
“They competed on every possession. We beat a great basketball team.”
Vivians’ second 30-point effort of the season and third of her career included 19 in the final half. Vivians was 11-of-20 from the field and 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Her contributions also included nine rebounds.
“Victoria really carried us,” Schaefer said. “When she gets hot like that, you look in your plays and find everything you can run for her. Again, I could not be prouder of this program.”
Morgan William added 12 points. Chinwe Okorie had a team-high 11 rebounds.
After William hit a 3-point basket to give MSU a 10-7 lead, the Lady Volunteers answered with the game’s next eight points to end the first quarter with a 15-10 lead.
UT would stretch the lead to 17-10 before missing eight straight shots while MSU went on a 13-3 run. A layup by Okorie capped the run and gave the Bulldogs a 23-20 lead.
MSU eased into halftime with a 25-22 lead.
In the second half, Vivians caught fire. A 3-pointer by her gave the Maroon and White a 36-26 lead with 5:43 left third quarter. Tennessee came right back and had the contest to a two-point game with MSU leading at 43-41.
William and Dominique Dillingham scored on back-to-back baskets as the Bulldogs began to pull away. An 8-0 run ran the MSU lead to 56-43 with 1:25 left.
For the contest, MSU hit 17 of 53 shots from the field (32.1 percent), 7 of 13 shots from 3-point range (53.8 percent) and 17 of 22 shots from 3-point range (77.3 percent). Tennessee hit 18 of 64 shots from the field (28.1 percent), 2 of 8 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 10 of 19 shots from the foul line (52.6 percent).
MSU held a 45-42 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had seven assists and 14 turnovers, while the Lady Volunteers had six assists and 10 turnovers.
Tennessee received 22 points from Diamond DeShields and 12 points from Jaime Nared.
(From MSU Media Relations)