MSU (3-0) will face Western Kentucky (3-0) at 2 p.m. Sunday for the tournament championship. The game will be televised nationally by CBS Sports Network from the Humphrey Coliseum.
“It was a heck of a basketball game,” MSU third-year head coach Vic Schaefer said. “West Virginia is a tremendous team. They will win a lot of games in the Big 12. This was a tremendous win for our program. I was proud of our toughness. There were not many times we were out-toughed tonight.
“We talk all the time about being competitive. I loved our competitiveness tonight.”
Mississippi State picked up its first win against a ranked non-conference foe since it knocked off No. 8 Ohio State in the 2010 NCAA Tournament second round.
MSU claimed the win thanks to a 15-0 run over a six-minute stretch of the second half. After shooting 29.7 percent in the opening half, the Bulldogs sparkled on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor. By the time the run ended MSU had firm control of the game at 57-41 with 10:31 left in the contest.
Chapel’s first double-double came via a career-high 19 points and a personal-best 11 rebounds. The Bulldogs had 31 offensive rebounds, the most since the 2011-12 squad had 32 against Alcorn State. That total included 10 from Chinwe Okorie and seven from Chapel. Okorie finished with a team-high 13 rebounds.
“It was all about competing and not being scared,” Chapel said. “We showed tonight we can compete with other good teams. Last year I was complacent and timid. This year, I have come back with more confidence. I know I have players and coaches who have confidence in me.”
Vivians overcame a 2-for-10 performance from the floor in the first half by hitting 8-of-13 shots from the field in the second half. Breanna Richardson was also in double figures with 10 points.
“In the first half, I was too worried about my defense because I didn’t play well defensively in the last game,” Vivians said. “In the second half, I came out and decided to just play loose.”
West Virginia (2-1) built an 18-11 lead midway through the first half. The Bulldogs were struggling offensively, so they found their second gear on the defensive end.
The Bulldogs took their first lead since 1-0 at 19-18 on a basket by Breanna Richardson. The lead would go back-and-forth a couple of more times before the Maroon and White took a 35-32 lead into the locker room at the half.
“The story of the game was Dominique Dillingham,” Schaefer said. “She plays 38 minutes and holds their best player (Bria Holmes) to 8-of-23 from the field. She does that while only scoring three points herself. She had four rebounds and did all that while guarding their best player.”
In the second half, MSU never trailed and eventually opened up a 42-41 lead with 16:21 left. The Mountaineers closed within eight points later before Vivians hit a 3-pointer and 2-pointer to move the home team back out of danger.
“Victoria has no conscious and that is what you want out a great offensive player,” Schaefer said. “We are still so young. We have been competing against some great teams. This was a great environment tonight. Our fans were loud. We didn’t shoot free throws that well, but I loved our competitiveness tonight.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 27 of 75 shots from the field (36.0 percent), 5 of 20 shots from 3-point range (25.0 percent) and 15 of 26 shots from the foul line (57.7 percent). The Mountaineers hit 23 of 60 shots from the field (38.3 percent), 3 of 14 shots from 3-point range (21.4 percent) and 12 of 13 shots from the foul line (92.3 percent).
MSU held a 48-44 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 13 turnovers, while the Mountaineers had 14 assists and 24 turnovers.
Averee Fields had 23 points for West Virginia, while Holmes finished with 18 points.