At Starkville, Miss., a second-half rally from a nine-point deficit saw host Mississippi State glide to the finish Sunday, with the Bulldogs claiming an 88-77 victory against Western Kentucky in the Preseason WNIT title game.
Mississippi State (4-0) trailed 61-52 with 13:13 to go in the second half, after Chastity Gooch of Western Kentucky (3-1) nailed a jumper. Victoria Vivians put the home team up, 70-69, with 6:57 to go, but the game’s key sequence came with about 2:30 left, after Dominique Dillingham missed a free throw. Vivians got the offensive rebound, and Morgan William was fouled as she made a layup – after her free throw, it was 82-75, and the Lady Toppers could not rally.
Mississippi State got 17 points each from William and Ketara Chapel; Vivians added 16 points with 12 rebounds and was named MVP of the tournament. Chapel was also named to the all-tournament team. This marks MSU's first time in winning the Preseason WNIT, and it is the first SEC school since Georgia in 1999 to pull off the feat.
Western Kentucky was paced by 20 points each from Gooch and Alexis Govan, and Kendall Noble added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Gooch, who also had 14 rebounds, and Noble were also named to the all-tournament team – rounding out the squad was Shereesha Richards of Albany and Bria Holmes of West Virginia. Western Kentucky was the first mid-major program to reach the Preseason WNIT championship game since Louisiana Tech in 2000.
Both teams had more than 20 turnovers; Mississippi State had a significant edge in free throw attempts (31-18) and makes (26-14).
Shereesha Richards - Albany
Bria Holmes - West Virginia
Chastity Gooch - Western Kentucky
Kendall Noble - Western Kentucky
Ketara Chapel - Mississippi State
MVP: Victoria Vivians - Mississippi State