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Bulldogs Host South Florida Sunday At 5 In WNIT Quarterfinals

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Jerica James' clutch play has helped Mississippi State advance to the WNIT quarterfinals against South Florida.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Eight schools remain in the 2014 WNIT, and Mississippi State is one of them. The Bulldogs vie for one of the final four spots at 5 p.m. Sunday when they host South Florida in the tournament quarterfinals at Humphrey Coliseum.

Tickets cost $8 for general admission and $4 for students. The first 700 MSU students get in free, and free pizza will be offered to the first 200 students. Tickets can be purchased online at www.hailstate.com/tickets or by phone at 1-888-GO-DAWGS.

MSU punched its quarterfinal ticket with a thrilling 59-54 come-from-behind victory against SEC foe Auburn Thursday night at the Hump. The Bulldogs trailed by 14 early in the second half but continued to battle, finishing the game on a 34-15 run over the final 15 minutes.

Thursday’s win put Mississippi State at 22-13 on the season, the most wins since the 2008-09 squad claimed 23 victories.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to be playing on March 30. That’s what we’re supposed to do,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I’m excited for these ladies because they have worked hard to put themselves in the position to have the opportunity to play at home in front of our crowd, which has been sensational.

“We have a very formidable foe in South Florida. I’m not sure what we did to be on this side of the bracket, but it sure seems heavy. Every night we seem to get someone who could easily have been in the NCAA Tournament. They are talented and very impressive on film.”

Junior Kendra Grant was key in the Bulldogs’ rally, scoring 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half. The Richland, Miss., native, who is second on the team with 11.1 points an outing, has averaged 11.0 points in the WNIT while scoring at a 15.5 clip in MSU’s five postseason games.

Martha Alwal has also been a force in the tournament, averaging 14.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.7 blocks in the three games. Alwal paces the Maroon and White on the season with a 15.2 scoring clip. She also tops the team with 8.8 rebounds a game, and she enters Sunday tied for the MSU single-season blocks record with 97.

Junior Jerica James was a key contributor in State’s second-half 16-2 run, knocking down a 3-pointer to go with four assists and a steal. James has averaged 8.0 points per game in the WNIT and a 7.8 clip the last five games.

Junior Savannah Carter and freshman Breanna Richardson are also averaging double figures in the WNIT, pouring in 12.0 and 11.7 points per game, respectively.

South Florida (22-12) advanced with a 74-59 home win against George Washington on Thursday. Courtney Williams led the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds in the contest and paces USF on the season with 16.3 points per game.

Sunday’s game will be the inaugural meeting between Mississippi State and the Bulls.

The winner of Sunday’s clash will advance to face either Bowling Green or Rutgers in the semifinals (April 2-3).


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