Despite some erratic shooting, Mississippi State’s fresh-faced roster kept its calm Thursday in the semifinals of the preseason WNIT and used a 15-0 run in the second half to secure a 74-61 victory over 17th-ranked West Virginia and earn home-team status for the finals, where the Bulldogs will face Western Kentucky on Sunday at 3 p.m. EST. The game will be televised live by CBS Sports Network from Starkville, Miss.
MSU sophomore forward Ketara Chapel had her first career double-double with a career-high 19 points to go with 11 rebounds; freshman Victoria Vivians was a slightly ragged 10-for-23 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free-throw line, but her 26 points more than helped the cause. West Virginia (2-1) saw the contest slip away thanks to 24 turnovers and a lack of balance from the offense – Bria Holmes had 18 points and six rebounds, while Averee Fields added 23 points and five rebounds, but no one else on the Mountaineers roster had more than seven points.
Mississippi State (3-0) has managed its run to the WNIT final without the services of 6-4 center Martha Alwal, but despite the lack of bulk, MSU pulled down 31 offensive rebounds. That helped offset problems from long range, as the Bulldogs went 5-of-20 from 3-point range and shot 36 percent overall from the field.
Holmes gave West Virginia reason to hope by hitting a 3-pointer with 16:21 left in the second half to pull the Mountaineers within 42-41, but that marked the starting point of MSU’s big run. West Virginia was a bleak 3-of-14 from 3-point range and had three players foul out.