Vivians, Bulldogs Roll Past Mercer 97-66

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Victoria Vivians sparkled in her Mississippi State debut Friday night. Vivians scored a game-high 23 points and several of her Bulldog teammates also chipped in on the offensive end as Mississippi State knocked off Mercer 97-66 in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament at Humphrey Coliseum.

Vivians’ career-opening performance bettered Jennifer Fambrough’s 21 in her MSU debut against Grambling in 1998.

MSU will host Arkansas State at 6 p.m. Sunday in a second-round tournament contest. Arkansas State knocked off Jackson State 92-60 in another first-round game Friday night.

“We started out slow but we gradually got into it,” said Vivians, a 6-foot-1 freshman from Carthage. “It was a little shaky at first. Once we got things going offensively, we had a really good game. Everybody played with a lot of confidence and made shots.”

MSU held a 41-29 halftime lead. The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 19-5 run and breezed from there.

In the second half, the Bulldogs scored 56 points, including a 19-of-36 half from the field.

“We really put the hammer down on them in the second half,” MSU third-year coach Vic Schaefer said. “The first five minutes of the second half are always huge and we played really well in that stretch. I thought the press kicked in. It is hard to believe that we beat that team by 30-plus points, because they are very good.

“We are a really young team but the basketball does not know how young you are.”

MSU forced 15 second-half turnovers, including three five-second counts.

“Once we get aggressive, the momentum really kicks in,” said freshman guard Morgan William. “We knew we had to get some turnovers and we had to be more aggressive on the defensive end.”

William added 19 points in her MSU debut, while Ketara Chapel scored a career-high 14 points. Vivians and William were a combined 13-of-13 from the foul line.

The Bulldog newcomers combined for 59 points in the contest.

“We were able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim,” Schaefer said. “We led the nation in free throw percentage a year ago and that is what we want to do this season. We want to attack. We really came out and executed. Scoring 56 points in a half of women’s college basketball is hard to do.”

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 33 of 69 shots from the field (47.8 percent), 8 of 21 shots from 3-point range (38.1 percent) and 23 of 28 shots from the foul line (82.1 percent). The Bears hit 20 of 54 shots from the field (37.0 percent), 1 of 4 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 25 of 30 shots from the foul line (83.3 percent).

MSU held a 42-34 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 15 assists and 16 turnovers, while the Bears had three assists and 21 turnovers.

Sherise Williams led MSU with nine rebounds, while Jerica James and William each had a team-high four assists.

Mercer received 22 points from Precious Bridges, 13 points from Kahlia Lawrence and 11 points from Briana Williams.


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