By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – No. 7 Mississippi State was clinging to a one-point halftime lead over 19th-ranked DePaul in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
But the Bulldogs began to create some separation midway through the third quarter by going on a 16-2 run and punched their ticket to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row with a 92-71 victory.
“I feel like we really came out and executed during the third quarter,” said MSU guard Blair Schaefer. “We really talked about it at halftime that we needed to instill our will out there. We did it the first half but we felt like there was still more that we could put out there. We really executed both offensively and defensively.”
No. 2 seed MSU (31-4) moves on to play the winner of tonight’s Oklahoma-Washington game Friday in Oklahoma City.
The Bulldogs shot over 50 percent in three of the four quarters and finished at 49.2 percent from the field. Schaefer led State in scoring for the second game in a row with 18 points and nailed all four of the Bulldogs’ 3-pointers.
“Obviously she’s had two really good games back-to-back, just making shots,” said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. “She was 2-for-7 at halftime and made 4-of-5 in the second half and is just really shooting it well.”
Mississippi State’s bench provided 60 points with Jazzmun Holmes netting a career-high 14, Breanna Richardson, Victoria Vivians and Chinwe Okorie all scoring 12 and Dominique Dillingham chipping in 10.
The Bulldogs outrebounded DePaul 48-26, led by Okorie and Teaira McCowan with nine boards each.
“We executed some really good stuff today, I mean really good stuff,” Vic Schaefer said. “Our kids did a good job attacking and doing some things offensively that we haven’t done all year. Hopefully we’re getting hot at the right time. That’s what this time of year is all about. If you’re going to make it in this tournament, it’s about getting hot.”
DePaul, the No. 7 seed, shot 40.9 percent from the floor and was 10 of 29 behind the arc. Jessica January knocked down four shots from the perimeter and led the Blue Demons with 18 points.
Big East Player of the Year Brooke Schulte added 16 points, while Tanita Allen scored 13 points off the bench as DePaul finished the season at 27-8.