Vivians’ 17 points helps No. 5 Mississippi State down UALR
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Vic Schaefer has turned Mississippi State from a middle-of-the-road Southeastern Conference program into a national factor in five seasons.
The Bulldogs coach celebrated that dramatic turnaround with the 100th victory of his career on Tuesday night, a 58-44 win over Arkansas-Little Rock.
Schaefer’s milestone with Mississippi State (10-0) happened in a state dear to him — a place where he spent six years as an assistant for the Razorbacks before leaving with coach Gary Blair for Texas A&M.
“I wouldn’t lie to you if I didn’t say it’s kind of special, especially in this state,” Schaefer said. “I spent six great years up on the hill. I wasn’t good enough to get that one when (Blair) left back in 2003, but I really appreciate the opportunity at Mississippi State.”
Schaefer is only the second coach in school history to reach the century mark in victories, joining Sharon Fanning-Otis. He earned every bit of win No. 100 on Tuesday against a Trojans (5-5) team that led by as many as five points on its home court and trailed by only four points after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, however, Victoria Vivians scored 10 of her 17 points to help the Bulldogs pull away and remain undefeated. Blair Schaefer matched her career high with 12 points for Mississippi State, while Morgan William finished with 10.
“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at Mississippi State,” Vic Schaefer said. “It’s what I envisioned.”
Ronjanae DeGray led UALR with 18 points and was 7 of 7 from the field, while Sharde’ Collins had 11 points.
Mississippi State entered the game third in the SEC in scoring, averaging 80.7 points per game.
However, the Bulldogs struggled to score in the first half against a UALR defense that had allowed only an average of 46 points per game during its recent winning streak — 52.6 per game for the season.
The Trojans led by as many as five points in the second quarter, with Collins scoring all nine of her first-half points in the first quarter, but Mississippi State overcame 10 first-half turnovers to lead 25-24 at halftime and wore down UALR late.
“We missed a lot of opportunities,” Trojans coach Joe Foley said. “To me, personally, I’m not pleased at all with the way we played. You can say what you want, but I think our kids can play better than that.”
Mississippi State: Despite having not played a home game since an 88-51 win over San Jose State on Nov. 26, the Bulldogs added to their impressive early season resume against one of the top mid-major programs in the country. They did so by committing only three turnovers in the second half after turning the ball over 10 times in the first.
UALR: The Trojans have reached the postseason eight times in the last nine seasons, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament. They had won four straight games entering Tuesday, but a close loss to a top 5 team isn’t likely to hurt their postseason chances.
Vivians was only 3-of-9 shooting through three quarters on Tuesday, and she had committed four of Mississippi State’s 13 turnovers. Instead of showing her frustration, the junior kept her cool and scored 10 points in the fourth, making 4 of 5 shots as the Bulldogs outscored the Trojans 20-10 to close out the win.
“You’ve got to keep a level head playing for Coach Schaefer,” Vivians said. “If you get out of it, it’s not going to turn out well.”
Mississippi State stays on the road when it travels to Los Angeles for two games in the Women of Troy Classic, beginning with SMU on Friday.
The Trojans return to the road when they face Tulsa on Sunday.