LAS VEGAS (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Victoria Vivians became the third player in program history to score 2,000 career points as No. 5/3 Mississippi State knocked off No. 22 Syracuse 76-65 Thursday afternoon on State’s final day of the Duel in the Desert played at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
Vivians scored a game-high 26 points, giving the senior from Carthage six games with 20 or more points this season. Blair Schaefer added 15 points, while Teaira McCowan had a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
“We competed really hard,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Syracuse plays so hard, they are tough. I thought we matched that, especially on the defensive end. We played well at times offensively but got cold late. (Blair Schaefer) carried us early and (Vivians) really made some key shots there late.”
MSU (13-0) handed Syracuse (11-1) its first defeat of the season, while finishing this event with a pair of wins and the Rebel Division trophy. The Bulldogs have won 35 straight non-conference regular-season games. The contest matched the last two national finalists with Syracuse playing in the 2016 national championship game and MSU doing the same earlier this year.
MSU can finish non-conference play with an undefeated record for fourth time when a home win against Mississippi Valley State Thursday night. The Bulldogs have already accomplished the feat twice under Vic Schaefer.
“We had to settle down,” Vivians said. “After that first timeout, we slowed some things down. We got some stops, some turnovers and turned that into points. We had a lot of players step up. I feel like (Roshunda Johnson) and (Blair Schaefer) can make any shot they take.”
The Bulldogs took the lead for good late in the first quarter with a 9-2 run opening up a 16-11 advantage. A 3-pointer by Schaefer would later run the lead to seven, before MSU led 22-18 after one quarter.
The Bulldogs would hold a slight lead for the early stages of the second quarter. The Maroon and White then used defensive pressure to expand the lead to as many as 15 points.
MSU forced 10 first-half turnovers, scored 15 points off the takeaways and led 44-29 at halftime.
In the second half, the lead remained in double figures and grew to as many as 18 on two occasions.
For the contest, MSU hit 26 of 64 shots from the field (40.6 percent), 7 of 26 shots from 3-point range (26.9 percent) and 17 of 22 shots from the foul line (77.3 percent). Syracuse hit 24 of 62 shots from the field (38.7 percent) 6 of 21 shots from 3-point range (28.6 percent) and 11 of 17 shots from the foul line (64.7 percent).
MSU held a 42-40 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 10 turnovers, while the Orange had eight assists and 15 turnovers.
Syracuse received 22 points from Gabrielle Cooper, 20 points from Tiana Mangakahia and 14 points from Miranda Drummond. Digna Strautmane and Cooper each had a team-high nine rebounds.
MSU will enjoy a few days off for Christmas before returning to the Humphrey Coliseum for a 7 p.m. start against Mississippi Valley State Thursday. That contest will close the non-conference schedule and be shown on SEC Network +.