NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - No. 2 Mississippi State opened the next chapter of its season on a successful note with an 81-58 victory over Kentucky in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Women's Basketball Tournament Friday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.
The top-seeded Bulldogs beat the ninth-seeded Wildcats for a third time this season to advance to the conference semifinal round for a third-straight year. MSU will face either No. 4 seed LSU or No. 5 seed Texas A&M at 4 p.m. CT Saturday on ESPNU.
"Really proud of these kids," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "We continue to play extremely well. Kentucky has a great team and it's hard to play back-to-back games. Our first three quarters offensively were really good. We shared the ball. Roshunda (Johnson) and Blair (Schaefer) knocked down shots. Ten-of-21 from 3 is a good day of work.
"We were able to rest some kids today. It's another battle against a Top-25 team tomorrow, but we will be ready."
MSU improved to 31-0, while remaining one of the two undefeated teams in Division I women's basketball, along with Connecticut. A win Saturday sends the Bulldogs to the conference tournament finals for a third-straight season. The Bulldogs have yet to win the event.
MSU blew open Friday's contest with a dominating performance in the second quarter. Despite a 9-2 run to build an eight-point lead, MSU regressed on the defensive end, allowing Kentucky to take a 23-22 lead after one quarter.
From there, it was all Bulldogs. A 10-0 run put the Maroon and White ahead for good. In the second quarter, the Bulldogs made five 3-point baskets, including back-to-back treys from Roshunda Johnson during the big run.
In the first half, Blair Schaefer hit four 3-pointers and Johnson hit three, as the Bulldogs hit eight as a team. MSU shot 51.7 percent from the field in the first half and led 45-32 at halftime.
Two free throws by Johnson pushed the lead to 20 for the first time with 4:50 left in the third quarter.
With the hopes of playing three games in three days, the Bulldogs were able to play a lot of reserves in the fourth quarter, while closing out the win.
Johnson led the Bulldogs with 20 points, while Vivians had 17 points, Schaefer had 15 points and Teaira McCowan had 12 points. McCowan recorded her 23rd double-double with a game-high 11 rebounds.
For the contest, MSU hit 28 of 56 shots from the field (50.0 percent), 10 of 21 shots from 3-point range (47.6 percent) and 15 of 17 shots from the foul line (88.2 percent). Kentucky hit 24 of 52 shots from the field (46.2 percent), 5 of 11 shots from 3-point range (45.5 percent) and 5 of 7 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent).
MSU held a 28-26 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 19 assists and five turnovers, while the Wildcats had nine assists and 13 turnovers.
Kentucky (15-17) received 15 points from Taylor Murray and 13 points each from Amanda Paschal and Maci Morris. Murray had a team-high seven rebounds for the Wildcats.