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Mississippi State to host NCAA Women’s Tournament games

STARKVILLE – For the second straight year, No. 15 Mississippi State has advanced to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

This time however, the Bulldogs will be dancing at home.

For the first time ever, Starkville will play host to the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament on Friday and Sunday. MSU is hosting as a No. 5 seed and will take on 12th-seeded Chattanooga Friday at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2.

“I knew we were going to be in, it was just a matter of who and where,” said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. “It is really exciting to see us playing at home. That really is the overwhelming factor.”

Also invading Humphrey Coliseum will be No. 4 seed Michigan State (24-8) and 13th-seeded Belmont (24-8). Those two teams will meet Friday at 11 a.m. also on ESPN2.

The second-round game will be played Sunday at 1:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Top-ranked and back-to-back-back national champion UConn is the No. 1 national seed paired in that bracket.

Normally, a fourth-seeded team would host the first and second rounds, but the Spartans’ Breslin Student Events Center is being used for the Michigan high school girls basketball state finals.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened and its not unprecedented,” Schaefer said. “But they’re a great team, well coached and are going to come on the road and probably have a little chip on their shoulder.”

MSU is making its eighth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and second under Schaefer. The Bulldogs are 7-7 all-time at the event, with its best finish coming in 2010, when they advanced to the Sweet 16.

Mississippi State made it to the second round last year in Durham, North Carolina as a No. 5 seed. After defeating Tulane 57-47, the Bulldogs were dispatched by host Duke 64-56.

“Last year, we went all the way up to Duke and lost,” said MSU guard Victoria Vivians. “Now we’ve got to defend our home court, which is something we do well. I think we’ll be more confident and prepared.”

MSU enters the NCAA Tournament at 26-7 and were the runner up in the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs were 14-2 at home this season, with their only losses coming against No. 3 South Carolina (57-51) and No. 12 Kentucky (83-60).

“Our team is playing well at the right time of year, and we’re getting healthy,” Schaefer said. “I really like where we are right now.”

Mississippi State is 3-2 all-time against Chattanooga and 2-1 at home. The Bulldogs won the previous meeting 103-87 on Dec. 3, 1993 as part of the MSU Classic. The Bulldogs are also 1-0 against Michigan State and 2-1 against Belmont.

By Logan Lowery, Daily Journal