A strong second half lifted Mississippi State to a 79-49 win against LSU in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Friday.
“First, I just want to congratulate LSU,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I just have so much respect for Nikki and her staff and that team. Jordan was spectacular today. I just thought she made some tremendous decisions in transition. She goes 8-12, had five rebounds, three assists, two steals. Again,she’s kind of the heartbeat of our team. As she goes,our team kind of feeds off her juice. She really had it today. Then Rickea, obviously 10-18, has a double-double. To get no turnovers — I think this is the first game all year she’s had no turnovers in a game — three assists and two steals, one block.
“Really, really proud of our team. I’ve been really worried about LSU. They had played us so well at our place. Came back and actually had a chance to tie it late after we were up 20 in the third quarter. This is a tough, physical, aggressive basketball team. That’s my kind of team. They’re going to be so successful in postseason. They’re going to do a great job. I know Nikki will have them ready for the NCAA tournament.”
MSU will take on Kentucky in the semifinals at approximately 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcasted on ESPNU and will also be carried on the MSU Radio Network.
After a big three gave State (26-5) the lead going into halftime, the Bulldogs came out on fire in the final 20 minutes of the game, outscoring the Tigers, 53-24. MSU shot a blazing 66 percent from the floor in the second half while holding LSU (20-10) to just 28 percent shooting.
Rickea Jackson went off after intermission, dropping 19 of her game-high 23 points in the second half to fuel the offense. The freshman forward recorded her third double-double of the season by adding 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.
Jordan Danberry posted another all-around performance, finishing with 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, three assists and two steals to set the tone for State on both ends of the floor. She added 12 points in the second half. Myah Taylor added 10 points, eight assists and two steals to round out the double-digit scorers.
Mississippi State owned the paint all game long, outscoring LSU as a team with 52 points down low. On the glass, the Bulldogs held a 42-33 rebounding advantage. State finished the game with 20 assists to help get better looks at the basket, which resulted in MSU shooting 52 percent from the field.
LSU struck first in the game, using a 12-2 run in the opening period to take an early lead. State would get settled defensively, holding the Tigers without a score for the final 3:53 of the first quarter, but LSU held the early advantage, 13-10.
The second stanza was another low-scoring period, but Mississippi State ended the half on a 10-2. The swing in momentum was capped by a 40-foot 3-pointer from Andra Espinoza-Hunter that was released just before the clock expired to give MSU a 26-25 lead going into halftime.
After missing their first shot in the third period, the Bulldogs rattled off seven-straight baskets to jumpstart the offense. Jackson knocked down three quick buckets and got a big block on the other end of the floor to give the squad some momentum. State wouldn’t let off for the remainder of the quarter, using a 12-2 run to take a 52-37 lead heading into the final frame.
Jackson had 10 points in the period, while Danberry and Taylor each added six points to pace the offense. The team shot 65 percent in the quarter to outscore LSU, 26-12. The Bulldogs continued to build their lead in the fourth quarter, cruising to the 30-point victory over the Tigers.