In rematch of NCAA title game, No. 2 Miss St tops S Carolina
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Victoria Vivians had never beaten South Carolina during her stellar career at Mississippi State.
In front of the first sellout crowd in women’s basketball history, Vivians scored 20 of her 24 points in the first half to help No. 2 Mississippi State beat No. 7 South Carolina 67-53 on Monday night.
The Bulldogs (24-0, 10-0 SEC) had lost 11 straight to the Gamecocks, including a defeat in the national championship game last season.
The rematch of that April game brought 10,794 fans to Humphrey Coliseum, with the game sold out two weeks in advance. Student tickets were exhausted within eight minutes earlier in the week.
“Our crowd was awesome,” Mississippi State’s Blair Schaefer said. “Having people drive from other states to watch us play is a really great feeling. It got as loud as we thought it would; even louder. When (dad Vic Schaefer) came to Starkville, this is what he wanted to create.”
The Gamecocks (18-5, 7-3) got off to a strong start and led 20-10 before the Bulldogs rallied behind Vivians.
A 13-0 run to begin the fourth quarter was the difference in the game as the Bulldogs turned a five-point, third-quarter deficit into a lead they wouldn’t lose. Blair Schaefer finished with 14 points, including two big 3-pointers during that stretch to help flip the game in the Bulldogs’ favor.
The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Gamecocks 40-36 and forced them into 17 turnovers.
“I think we are tough because I know how hard we practice,” coach Vic Schaefer said. “We regrouped in the huddle at the end of the (first quarter) and did some great things executing.”
Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan had two points in three quarters and finished with nine, but she added a career-high 20 rebounds. Keeping her out of the paint was South Carolina’s game plan.
“We understand that (McCowan) is very effective when she does things well on the floor,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “We want to make it more difficult on her scoring deep in the paint. She did a good job getting put-backs.”
South Carolina started the game up 20-10 after one quarter, holding the Bulldogs to just 4 of 16 from the field. The second quarter belonged to the Bulldogs, who inserted freshman forward Chloe Bibby to guard 6-foot-5 A’ja Wilson. South Carolina scored eight points in the quarter and the Bulldogs had a 13-2 run that helped them to a 29-28 halftime advantage.
Wilson finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds for South Carolina, but she managed just seven points in the second half. Doniyah Cliney added 10 points.
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Besides Wilson and Cliney, the rest of the Gamecocks combined for just 18 points.
At 24-0, Mississippi State is off to the best start in school history.
Mississippi State travels to Florida on Thursday.
South Carolina travels to Alabama on Thursday.