By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State hopes to continue its run in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament tonight as Southern Miss visits at 7 p.m. in a second-round game.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 77-68 home victory over Tulane in the opening round of the WNIT on Thursday night, winning its first postseason game under second year head coach Vic Schaefer.
Tonight marks the second trip to Starkville this season for the Golden Eagles. MSU (20-13) won the first meeting 71-61 on Dec. 14 behind 19 points and nine rebounds from Martha Alwal.
“It’s going to be close and (Southern Miss is) going to be ready,” Alwal said. “They’re going to be hungry. They’re not scared of us at all and are going to come in here ready to fight us. We’re going to have to put the fight right back to them.”
In the first meeting, Gillom Trophy winner Jamierra Faulkner played just eight minutes and left the game scoreless due to injury. The senior point guard leads the nation in assists (8.5 per game) and is also averaging 17.7 points.
In Faulkner’s absence in the first outing, Tamara Jones exploded for 27 points.
Southern Miss enters tonight’s game at 27-6 having won 14 of its last 15 contests. The Golden Eagles downed Lamar 75-60 at home on Thursday to advance to the second round.
‘Really tough opponent’
“They’re probably the 65th team in the NCAA tournament,” Schaefer said. “They probably deserved an at large (bid). They’ve played well all year and played a good schedule. Joye Lee (McNelis) does a tremendous job. Faulkner is awfully good and (Jones) ripped us a new one here last time scoring 27 and is really good.
“It’s going to be a tough ballgame for us. They are a formidable, really tough opponent.”
Southern Miss leads the overall series 22-18 while the Bulldogs hold the edge in Starkville 11-9, winning three straight. The two Magnolia State rivals have met only once in the WNIT in 2008 with the Golden Eagles claiming a 62-61 second round victory in Hattiesburg.
Alwal leads State with 15.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game and tied with Savannah Carter with 15 points in the first round win over Tulane.
The winner of tonight’s contest will meet either Auburn or Old Dominion in the third round.