SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Mississippi State did just about everything it could to lose during the second half against SMU, thanks to a cold shooting touch and often mediocre defense.
But the eighth-ranked Bulldogs still prevailed, beating the Mustangs 72-70 on Monday in the Puerto Rico Classic.
Victoria Vivians scored 18 points and Ketara Chapel added 13 as Mississippi State (11-1) won its third game in three days and sixth straight overall.
Mississippi State controlled most of the game and had a 65-54 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs suffered through some cold shooting in the fourth quarter, scoring just seven points, but did enough on defense to secure the win.
“We just had a lot of things go wrong that could have spelled defeat, but it didn’t,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “We found a way to get a stop late.”
The Mustangs never led, but trailed just 71-70 with 10 seconds remaining and had the ball. They had three shots to try to win, but Gabrielle Wilkins’ 3-pointer missed, as did two putback attempts after offensive rebounds.
McKenzie Adams led SMU (5-6) with 21 points. Wilkins added 14. The Mustangs were hurt by 19 turnovers and allowed Mississippi State to grab 22 offensive rebounds.
Mississippi State’s Vivians shot just 7 of 24 from the field, but added eight rebounds and a team-high four steals.
Chinwe Okorie scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Morgan William scored nine points and had a team-high six assists.
Vivians started the game on a roll with 16 points in the first half, shooting 4 of 7 from 3-point range. But she was just 1 of 10 from the field in the second half, which helped SMU slowly climb back into the game.
Vivians’ one second-half basket was crucial - she had a steal and layup with just over four minutes remaining to give the Bulldogs a 71-66 lead and slow the Mustangs’ rally.
“We had that mindset that we weren’t going to give up and lose,” Chapel said.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs shot 19 of 44 from the field (43.2 percent) in the first half and just 10 of 30 (33.3 percent) in the second half. Mississippi State had more offensive rebounds (22) than defensive rebounds (18).
SMU: The Mustangs outscored Mississippi State 21-8 on free throws, but made just one 3-pointer.
No. 8 Mississippi State hosts Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 28.
SMU at Tulsa on Jan. 2.
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