DURHAM, N.C. (AP) One of the best seasons in Mississippi State history was in danger of coming to an early end.
Then Breanna Richardson went to work inside and helped the Bulldogs earn at least one more game.
Richardson had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Mississippi State beat Tulane 57-47 on Friday in the first round of the Spokane Region.
”Coach just said we got out-toughed,” Richardson said. ”Just figured we needed some juice, so I had to get us started some type of way. It picked up our energy and got us started.”
Morgan William added 14 points for the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (27-6). They shot 48 percent in the second half and advanced to a second-round matchup with host Duke, the fourth seed, on Sunday.
Freshman Kolby Morgan had 17 points for the 12th-seeded Green Wave (22-11), who ended the season by losing two straight and four of six. They shot 28 percent and went 10 minutes between baskets, missing 11 consecutive shots after taking their only lead of the second half.
”They made us take a lot of bad shots, and that put us in a hole, and we had to fight back out of that,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said.
Richardson had 11 points during the 22-2 run that pushed the Bulldogs’ lead well into double figures.
The Green Wave pulled to 53-44 after hitting eight free throws before William went 4 for 4 from the line in the final minute to seal it and keep arguably the best season in the history of Mississippi State’s program going.
The Bulldogs entered already having set school records for both overall wins and victories in Southeastern Conference play. And when they get into the NCAAs, they usually stick around for a while: They haven’t gone one-and-done in the tournament since their first berth in 1999.
Yet they were in danger of coming to a premature end when the Green Wave went up by two about 4 1/2 minutes into the second half.
That’s when coach Vic Schaefer challenged the Bulldogs during a timeout.
”Hey, we didn’t play very good. Give Tulane credit, they had a lot to do with it,” Schaefer said. ”It’s good to know you can win an NCAA Tournament game knowing you didn’t play your best.”
Richardson, in particular, got busy in the paint and got the Bulldogs going.
She started the decisive run with back-to-back layups, added another one four possessions later, converted a three-point play and capped the burst with – what else? – a fast-break layup that made it 49-31 with just under 7 minutes left.
That put Mississippi State well on its way to giving Schaefer his first NCAA Tournament victory at the school.
Tulane held the Bulldogs scoreless for the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second half to turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 29-27 lead on Tiffany Dale’s layup through contact.
But that was it from the field for the Green Wave until Morgan’s layup almost exactly 10 minutes later.
The Green Wave leaned hard on their defense. They held the Bulldogs 20 points below its scoring average of 74.2 points – the third-best mark in the SEC. Top scorer Victoria Vivians, who entered averaging 15.1 points, finished with seven on 2-of-14 shooting. ”We stopped Mississippi State from doing a lot of things,” Stockton said, ”but we just couldn’t score.”
Tulane: The Green Wave, in their first season in the American Athletic Conference, earned their first at-large NCAA Tournament berth since 2003.
Mississippi State: William finished 9 of 11 from the free-throw line. … This Bulldogs ended Tulane’s season for the second straight year. They beat the Green Wave 77-68 in the first round of last year’s WNIT.
Tulane: Season over.
Mississippi State: Plays Duke on Sunday in the second round of the Spokane Region.
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