Vivians, McCowan lead Miss State to 74-55 win over Kentucky
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Vic Schaefer came into the season with just two Southeastern Conference teams that he’s never beaten as coach of Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs took down Dawn Staley’s crew last Monday in front of 10,769 Bulldog fans. A little over a week later, he knocked off the second bugaboo when Mississippi State beat Kentucky 74-55 on Sunday.
”I didn’t want to go my whole college career without beating them,” MSU senior forward Victoria Vivians said. ”It felt good to come out with the win.”
To add to the relief of beating those two programs for the first time in Schaefer’s six years, Mississippi State recorded its second-straight sellout at Humphrey Coliseum.
Prior to the 2017-18 season, MSU had one sellout in school history. It’s now becoming routine in Starkville.
A third sellout was announced on Friday when next Sunday’s Texas A&M game also saw tickets exhausted. A fourth is imminent on the Auburn game to end the regular season home slate.
”If I was a fan, I’d be in here every night,” Schaefer said. ”(The players) are just really special. I think our fans are very educated and they love these kids and this program. That’s part of building a program, but you’ve got to give these kids all the credit because of how they respect and honor the game.”
Getting to 26-0 on Sunday wasn’t going to come easy for the Bulldogs who had to fight off a pesky Wildcat bunch. Maci Mooris put 21 points on the board for Kentucky before fouling out in the fourth quarter, but the rest of her teammates were held to single digits.
Meanwhile, Mississippi State had no problem getting points from their top three scorers.
Victoria Vivians threw in 23 on the afternoon and pulled down seven rebounds. Teaira McCowan had 21 points and 16 boards in the win and Roshunda Johnson had 17 points and five 3-pointers.
Johnson worked Mississippi State through a relatively cold first quarter with five 3-pointers and 15 points. Despite the 35 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes, the Bulldogs were up 40-22.
”I thought Roshunda was very, very special in the first half,” Schaefer said. ”She bailed us out of some bad sets and made some shots for us. It changes things when she and Blair (Schaefer) are making shots.”
Morris tried to rally Kentucky, scoring 11 points in the first 5:30 of the third quarter. The Wildcats got an 18-point lead down to 50-41, but could get no closer.
The Bulldogs increased the advantage to 56-43 and the deficit never got back down to single digits.
”Morris came out and made some shots in that third quarter,” said Bulldogs point guard Morgan William, who had eight assists and no turnovers. ”I think our defense just wore on them as the quarter went on from there. We played better on-ball defense.”
The Bulldogs (26-0, 12-0 SEC) also had double figure scoring from Johnson who had 17 points.
Kentucky (12-14, 4-8 SEC) did out-rebound the Bulldogs 39-33 after falling behind 11-6 on the boards in the opening quarter.
Kentucky: Morris scored a team-high 21 points on Sunday which marked her 22nd time this season to score in double digits. She’s scored 20 or more in seven of those games.
Mississippi State: Victoria Vivians eclipsed 20 points for the 13th time this season while Teaira McCowan notched her 18th double-double of the year.
Kentucky hosts Arkansas on Thursday.
Mississippi State travels to Vanderbilt on Thursday.