KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The latest victory for unbeaten Mississippi State was doubly satisfying for coach Vic Schaefer.
Not only did his team beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time, his daughter made the shot that put the Bulldogs ahead for good.
Blair Schaefer sank a 3-pointer with 2:39 left as No. 4 Mississippi State capitalized on its superior depth to win 74-64 at Tennessee on Sunday and snap the Lady Volunteers’ six-game winning streak.
“Blair’s been playing well,” her coach said. “You talk about toughness, she’s playing with a broken nose, she took four stitches over her left eye when were out in California (and) never missed a beat, never missed a practice, never missed a game. She’ll step in front of a freight train and take a charge. The thing right now is she’s got a lot of confidence shooting the ball.”
Mississippi State (17-0, 3-0 SEC) is one of only three remaining undefeated Division I women’s teams, along with No. 1 Connecticut and No. 18 Virginia Tech. The Bulldogs posted their eighth road win to match a school single-season record set in 2008-09.
The Bulldogs have defeated Tennessee (10-5, 2-1) three straight times after losing the first 36 games in this series. Mississippi State beat Tennessee last year during the regular season at Starkville and in the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Jacksonville, Florida.
Schaefer’s big shot signified two underlying themes of this game: Mississippi State’s bench strength and its ability to hit big shots.
The Bulldogs sank 3-pointers in the final three seconds of each of the first three periods, including buzzer beaters from Victoria Vivians in the first quarter and Morgan William in the third. And after Diamond DeShields’ driving layup with 3:04 left gave Tennessee its only lead of the second half, Schaefer answered 25 seconds later with a 3-pointer that started a game-clinching 9-0 run.
“My biggest concern is we give up a wide-open 3 at the end of the second quarter, we give up a wide-open 3 at the end of the third,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. “And then we’re up by one and we give up a wide-open 3 to a person who only shoots 3s.”
Indeed, Schaefer’s nine points came on a trio of 3-pointers. She was 3 of 6 from 3-point range and attempted only one shot from inside the arc.
Schaefer helped Mississippi State’s bench outscore Tennessee’s reserves 25-4. Mississippi State had five reserves on the floor when it outscored the Lady Vols 13-2 over the final 5 minutes, 9 seconds of the first half.
“Coach always says when your number’s called, be ready to come in and play, so when our numbers were called, we weren’t scared to step up and make plays,” said Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan, who came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down nine rebounds. “That was our biggest thing, to get in and fix what’s broken and keep going with what’s good.”
William led Mississippi State with 21 points while Vivians had 20.
DeShields had 25 points and nine rebounds for Tennessee. Mercedes Russell added 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs showed they’re strong enough win even when Vivians isn’t at her best. She shot 7 of 25 overall and was 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Mississippi State had enough firepower to win anyway.
Tennessee: The Lady Vols’ lack of depth proved costly. Tennessee had seven turnovers and just three baskets in the second period, as foul trouble caused Jordan Reynolds and Jaime Nared to spend much of that quarter on the bench. DeShields and Russell played all 40 minutes. Tennessee didn’t make a single substitution in the second half until Nared fouled out in the final minute.
Tennessee was 0 for 6 on 3-point attempts. … Mississippi State outscored Tennessee 18-6 in points off turnovers. Tennessee committed 17 turnovers, while Mississippi State had just seven.
“Anytime you get to coach your kid, let me tell you, don’t turn it down,” Vic Schaefer said. “It’s very special. She makes it easy, and so do my (other) players.”
Mississippi State hosts Florida on Thursday.
Tennessee is at Mississippi on Thursday.
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