No. 7 Mississippi State women top Auburn

Published 10:10 am Friday, January 8, 2016

STARKVILLE (AP) – Mississippi State’s Victoria Vivians felt as if she let her team down this week in a victory over Florida.

The sophomore guard made sure it didn’t happen again.

Vivians scored 23 points and No. 7 Mississippi State used a stellar defensive performance to beat Auburn 60-45 on Thursday night.

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“My teammates expect me to score a lot of points,” Vivians said. “That is what I am here for. I tried to make it up to them tonight.”

The Bulldogs held the Tigers to 40 percent shooting and only allowed five free throw attempts. A dominant size advantage worked in favor for Mississippi State, which never trailed in the final three quarters.

The Bulldogs won their 10th straight while playing with the program’s highest national ranking.

Mississippi State (15-1, 2-0) won its Southeastern Conference home opener for the second straight season by holding Auburn (11-4, 1-1) to 22.2 percent shooting from the field during a game-changing second quarter. The Bulldogs held Auburn without a field goal over the first 8:39 of the period and allowed only five points.

“In the second quarter, we were just fantastic,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “I don’t know how often you see five points in a quarter like that. We made a run. They made a run. Fortunately for us, our run was much bigger.”

Vivians hit a 3-point basket as the first quarter expired to give the Bulldogs a 15-12 lead. From there, Mississippi State turned to defense to fuel a 16-1 run. Auburn made 2 of 9 shots from the field in the second quarter.

Mississippi State led 33-17 halftime.

In the second half, Auburn used a 16-5 run to close to 38-33 with 1:57 left in the third quarter. Vivians and Teaira McCowan scored on back-to-back possessions to push the lead back to double digits.

“We just keep playing with patience,” said Mississippi State sophomore point guard Morgan William, who had seven assists. “We keep believing something good is going to happen. I think that is how we feel on offense and it makes a difference.”

A 3-pointer by Vivians as the shot clock expired expanded the lead to 50-38 with 6:31 remaining and halted Auburn’s final comeback attempt.

Vivians shot 9 of 22 from the field against Auburn after a 4-of-20 performance against Florida. She posted her fifth career double-double by adding 10 rebounds.

McCowan recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

Auburn entered the contest fresh off a victory over then-No. 7 Kentucky. Schaefer said that upset got his squad’s full attention.

“(Auburn’s) zone press is just totally relentless,” Schaefer said. “The good news is we have a bunch of relentless kids. We aren’t the best practicing team around but when the lights come on, they are ready to fight for everything.”

Tra’Cee Tanner scored 15 points for Auburn.