No. 22 Bulldogs Rally Past La Tech

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State made four consecutive defensive stops when it needed them the most Thursday night. Powered offensively by 20 points from Victoria Vivians, No. 22 MSU improved to 9-0 with a thrilling 81-77 women’s basketball win over Louisiana Tech in the Humphrey Coliseum.

“Louisiana Tech took the fight to us and played awfully well,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We couldn’t press them. It was a frustrating night for the most part for the Bulldogs. Ketara (Chapel) makes a big shot there at the end. We didn’t shoot it well. We didn’t play well.”

The Bulldogs struggled for most of the contest offensively. MSU shot 25.7 percent from the field in the opening half and trailed 40-33 at the intermission. The Bulldogs were again down by six points at 67-61 with 7:10 left in the contest.

MSU scored the game’s next six points to tie the contest. However, the lead was not taken until three free throws by Vivians two minutes later. A Kendra Grant free throw broke a 77-77 tie with 1:05 left in regulation.

Dominique Dillingham then had the play of the night on the defensive end with a steal. With 20 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, Ketara Chapel hit a basket with 20 seconds left to extend the Bulldog advantage to the three points. A free throw by Morgan William closed the scoring in the final second.

The score was tied 20 times and the lead changed hands 17 times. The Bulldogs have now scored 80 or more points eight times this season.

MSU built an early lead at 11-6 six minutes into the contest. Louisiana Tech (3-4) responded with a 7-1 run to grab a 12-11 lead. The lead switched hands several times before MSU scored four straight points for a 31-28 lead after a defensive rebound and layup by Chapel.

Savanna Langston tied the contest at 31 on a 3-point basket for Louisiana Tech. The Lady Techsters ended the half with a 12-2 run to take a 40-33 lead at halftime.

The Bulldogs battled back for a 44-43 lead on two free throws by Dillingham. The lead grew to five at 59-54 on back-to-back baskets by Martha Alwal. Again, the Lady Techsters responded with a 13-2 run for a 67-61 lead.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 65 shots from the field (35.4 percent), 2 of 14 shots from 3-point range (14.3 percent) and 33 of 46 shots from the foul line (71.7 percent). The Lady Techsters hit 27 of 63 shots from the field (42.9 percent), 6 of 13 shots from 3-point range (46.2 percent) and 17 of 23 shots from the foul line (73.9 percent).

State’s 33 free throws were three of the school record set last season against Southeastern Louisiana. The 46 attempts finished one back of the program best set against both TCU and Jackson State in 1992.

“Going to the free throw line 46 times is a plus,” Schaefer said. “Our goal is to make more free throws (33) than the other team takes (23) and we did that again tonight. Twenty offensive rebounds is a plus. We lead the Southeastern Conference in offensive rebounds so we had another good night there.”

MSU held a 46-42 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had eight assists and 14 turnovers, while the Lady Techsters had 16 assists and 19 turnovers.

Chinwe Okorie posted her first double-double for MSU with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Chapel had 13 points, while William added 10 points.

Kelia Shelton led Louisiana Tech with 31 points, while Chrisstasia Walter added 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds.

MSU will play at in-state rival Southern Mississippi Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be televised regionally by American Sports Network. MSU returns home to host Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. Monday.

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