Bulldogs hold awards banquet

Mississippi State players (l-r) Dominique Dillingham, Chinwe Okorie, Morgan William, Blair Schaefer, Breanna Richardson, Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan show off their awards. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Mississippi State players (l-r) Dominique Dillingham, Chinwe Okorie, Morgan William, Blair Schaefer, Breanna Richardson, Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan show off their awards. (Kelly Price/ Mississippi State)

Mississippi State celebrated a historic season and handed out team awards Monday night at its Hail State Hoops awards banquet at The Mill Conference Center.

Victoria Vivians and Chinwe Okorie took home two awards each. Vivians was named Most Valuable Player and Miss Offense for the second-straight season, while Okorie earned Most Improved honors along with her second Tommy and Terri Nusz Outstanding Bulldog Award.

Vivians paced Mississippi State on the offensive end with 616 points, becoming the first Bulldog since Tan White in 2005 to eclipse 600 points in a season. Vivians was named a WBCA All-America Honorable Mention along with First Team All-SEC from the coaches and Associated Press after rating second in the league with a 17.1 scoring average.

The Carthage native finished sixth in the SEC in league contests with 15.4 ppg. She earned SEC All-Tournament Team honors after averaging 22.0 ppg in leading the Bulldogs to their second championship game appearance.

Vivians, who became the fifth MSU player to reach 1,000 points in two seasons (1,121), also excelled on the defensive end, grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game, including a 6.7 average in league contests, and leading MSU with 1.7 steals per game.

In her second season of collegiate action, Okorie showed tremendous growth on the court, doubling her rookie season scoring average to 6.8 ppg while leading the Bulldogs with 6.0 rebounds per game.

Okorie paced the Bulldogs with 111 offensive rebounds, an SEC sixth-most 3.1 per game, and in field goal percentage with a 52.6 percent clip. Okorie also ranked second on MSU with 26 blocked shots.

State’s leading shot blocker, Teaira McCowan, received the Rookie Award. McCowan, an SEC All-Freshman Team honoree, notched the seventh-most blocks in program annals and second-most by a Bulldog freshman with 46.

The Brenham, Texas, native finished seventh in the SEC in blocks and 10th on the offensive glass, pulling down 2.9 per game. McCowan averaged 6.6 ppg and also claimed five double-doubles and seven double-figure rebounding games during her rookie season.

Junior Dominique Dillingham earned the Miss Defense Award after claiming Associated Press All-SEC Honorable Mention and SEC All-Defensive Team accolades.

Dillingham, who defended opponents’ top perimeter player, paced the Bulldogs with 52 charges taken this season. She also claimed the second-most steals on the team (56) to rank seventh among active SEC players with 182 career swipes.

Dillingham also upped her production on the offensive end as well, rating third on the team with 7.9 ppg and 9.4 ppg in SEC contests.

Sophomore Morgan William was named the Miss Hustle Award recipient after finishing second on the team with 9.7 ppg, including a 10.9 average in league contests.

William set the school’s season free-throw percentage record for the second-straight year, knocking down an SEC second-best 84.4 percent.

The Bulldogs’ career leader in the category (84.3 percent), William also distributed to her teammates at a 4.9 per-game clip that ranked second in the SEC. Her 176 assists rate second in program history.

Junior Breanna Richardson earned the 6th Man Award after coming off the bench in 34 of the team’s games and averaging 5.6 ppg.

The Conyers, Georgia, native drained the third-most free throws on the team (66) and ranked fifth on the squad with 20 steals. She also claimed the squad’s third-most offensive rebounds with 67.

Richardson, who eclipsed 800 points and 500 rebounds for her career, drained the winning 3-pointer in State’s NCAA Tournament second-round win against No. 16 Michigan State.

Blair Schaefer earned the Team Academic Award for the second-straight season. The biological sciences major has recorded a 3.78 GPA while also playing in 33 games this season. On the court, the Starkville native shot 33.8 percent from 3-point range while making a team second-most 24 triples.

The Fan of the Year Award went to the Bulldogs’ administrative assistant Diane Brown and her husband, John, who are faithful attendees at all the team’s home games and a number of road contests.

Bulldog fans enjoyed another record-setting season. Vic Schaefer’s fourth MSU edition won a school-record 28 games, the first time State has won 20-plus games in three-straight seasons, and earned the program’s second trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

Mississippi State also matched last season’s program mark for SEC wins with 11 while claiming the best league finish in school history with a tie for second.

In addition to winning double-digit SEC games for the first time, State claimed the program’s first two wins against Tennessee, including one in the SEC Tournament semifinal that advanced MSU to the title game.

The Bulldogs also hosted the NCAA First and Second Rounds for the first time and drew 12,209 fans, the third-highest attendance among the host sites.

That total put State at 92,914 fans for the season, a school record for the third-straight year. MSU, which has drawn 209,245 fans the last three seasons, claimed the fourth-largest crowd in Humphrey Coliseum history and the most ever for a women’s basketball game in the state of Mississippi with 10,626 for its Jan. 24 contest against South Carolina.

Mississippi State also stayed in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls the entire season, finishing 15th and 18th, respectively. The Bulldogs have been ranked in both polls 37-straight weeks, the 10th-longest active streak in the nation.

MSU also claimed the program’s highest rankings this season, climbing to No. 6 in the coaches poll and No. 7 in the Associated Press.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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