KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - After a program-changing victory at Tennessee a season ago, the No. 3 Mississippi State women’s basketball team made even more history Sunday afternoon.
MSU was tough in a 71-52 win over No. 6 Tennessee in Southeastern Conference action played before a national television audience and a crowd of 13,436 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
After winning for the first time at Tennessee a year ago, the Bulldogs followed that up with their highest-ranked road win in program history. The Bulldogs have now taken four of the last five meetings against the Lady Volunteers.
It was MSU’s 11th-ever win against a Top 10 opponent, including four under Vic Schaefer.
The contest was part of the SEC’s annual “We Back Pat,” raising awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease and honoring former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.
“That was a heck of a basketball game between two really great teams,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Today was about toughness and competitive spirit. If you are going to come in here and play this program on a special day, to honor Pat (Summitt) it was about toughness, rebounding, competing.
“To win the rebounding battle says a lot about my kids. Tennessee has a heck of a basketball team. It is the hardest-playing Tennessee team in a while. I love my kids today. We were competitive, loose balls, hustle plays. We got those balls. We set the tone early. To establish what we wanted to do early was great.”
The win allowed MSU to match last season’s record for best start to a season with its 20th-straight win. MSU improved to 20-0 overall and 6-0 in league play, while remaining one of three undefeated teams in Division I women’s basketball.
Tennessee fell to 16-3 and 4-2, while completing a stretch of four straight games against ranked opponents.
Victoria Vivians led the Bulldogs with 24 points – her 10th game of 20+ points this season. Roshunda Johnson added 16 points, while Teaira McCowan and Blair Schaefer each had 12 points.
McCowan collected 18 rebounds for her 14th double-double.
Thanks to strong offensive starts from Roshunda Johnson and Blair Schaefer, the Bulldogs built a 19-12 lead late in the first quarter. A layup by Vivians capped the quarter with the visiting team ahead 21-14.
In the second quarter, the Bulldogs continue to thrive on the inside with McCowan establishing her presence down low. The Bulldogs did not sub for the first 15 minutes of the game and the quick pace favored the Maroon and White, helping them to a 31-22 lead.
A follow-up 6-0 run pushed the lead to 13 and the Bulldogs enjoyed a similar lead, at 39-26 at halftime.
“Teaira competed all night, against an all-American, a first-round draft pick,” Schaefer said. “Roshunda and Blair were just making big shots. Victoria was great. We talked about needing to punch first and for being able to punch again. It was about being ready to play and I thought we were.”
In the third quarter, the Bulldogs needed some help from the bench with Jazzmun Holmes, Chloe Bibby and Jordan Danberry providing a spark. The Bulldogs needed that help because Vivians and Johnson were both battling foul trouble.
A 3-point play by Vivians pushed the lead to 44-28. Tennessee would follow with its run to pull within nine, at 53-44 after three quarters of play.
The Lady Vols were within seven at 57-50 with 7:19 left. From there, the Bulldogs reeled off a 7-0 run, with Schaefer, Johnson and Vivians each hitting key baskets for a 64-50 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs allowed eight points – Tennessee’s fewest scored in a quarter this season – while cruising to their biggest margin of victory in the series.
For the contest, MSU hit 28 of 67 shots from the field (41.8 percent), 7 of 18 shots from 3-point range (38.9 percent) and 8 of 10 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent). Tennessee hit 19 of 53 shots from the field (35.8 percent), 0 of 8 shots from 3-point range (0 percent) and 14 of 19 shots from the foul line (73.7 percent).
MSU held a 44-33 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 10 turnovers, while the Lady Vols had eight assists and 13 turnovers.
Tennessee received 16 points from Mercedes Russell and 12 points from Jaime Nared. Rennia Davis had a team-high 10 rebounds for the Lady Vols.
MSU welcomes Florida to the Humphrey Coliseum Thursday night. The contest is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.