STARKVILLE, Miss. – The numbers in the postgame box score show that top-seeded Mississippi State was dominant in just about every facet during its 95-50 victory over Nicholls in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night.
Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer isn’t buying it. He knows tougher games are coming quickly.
“We’re not very sharp,” Schaefer said. “We’ve got basically 48 hours to figure it out.”
Mississippi State didn’t need to be perfect on Saturday because of its massive size and talent advantage. Victoria Vivians scored 20 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Teaira McCowan scored 18 and had 13 rebounds. Blair Schaefer added another 18 points.
Mississippi State (33-1) started the game slowly, but scored 33 points in the second quarter to take a 54-24 lead into halftime and eventually cruise to the win. A sold-out crowd of 10,000-plus at Humphrey Coliseum cheered the Bulldogs every move and the final result was never in doubt.
Mississippi State shot 50 percent from the field, including 47 percent from 3-point range, and had a 51-29 rebounding advantage.
But Blair Schaefer agreed with her dad that the Bulldogs weren’t completely focused.
“We would get in a groove and then we would lose it,” Schaefer said. “In the past we’ve been really good with our chemistry. Our chemistry is still there, but we just have to work on all five playing well.”
Even though it wasn’t perfect, the Bulldogs bounced back from their only loss of the season, a 62-51 setback to South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference tournament final. Mississippi State won a program-record 32 straight games to open the season.
Blair Schaefer’s 18 points against Nicholls were a welcome sign after she struggled in the South Carolina loss, scoring no points and missing all five of her 3-point attempts.
“I regrouped and got back in the gym,” Schaefer said. “I put it in the past and that one game was just a bump in the road. So to come in and hit some shots for my teammates, it feels really good.”
Nicholls (19-14) was led by Tykeria Williams, who scored 16 points. Cassidy Barrios added 14 points. The Colonels shot just 27.7 percent from the field,
“We won some moments out there,” Nicholls coach DoBee Plaisance said. “There were some wins to take away and that’s what we’re going to grow on.”
Nicholls: The Colonels had plenty of fight and kept things competitive for a while, but the Bulldogs simply had too much size and talent. Nicholls made an impressive run just to get to the NCAA Tournament, beating No. 1 seed Lamar and No. 2 seed Stephen F. Austin to win the Southland Conference title.
Mississippi State: It was a hit-and-miss performance for the Bulldogs, who had to shake off the rust from a 13-day break between games. Mississippi State should get a much tougher test on Monday against Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs beat the Cowgirls 79-76 back in December.
Mississippi State will face No. 9 seed Oklahoma State on Monday in the second round.
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