Both Mississippi State and Mercer came into the WNIT on Friday knowing that freshmen would have to be quick studies for their teams to thrive.
For the Mississippi State women, the kids had a pretty good handle by the second half, as they posted a 97-66 victory against the Bears at home to advance to the WNIT quarterfinals on Sunday. The Bulldogs (1-0) will play at home again, taking on Arkansas State at 6 p.m. CST.
Freshman forward Victoria Vivians had 23 points and five rebounds for MSU; classmate Morgan William had 11 points in the first half and 19 for the game, and sophomore Ketara Chapel came through with a career-high 14 points for a Bulldogs team that features five freshmen and four sophomores. Mercer freshman Kahlia Lawrence had 13 points, while senior Precious Bridges added 20 points and six rebounds.
MSU cruised despite having 6-4 senior center Martha Alwal on the bench nursing an injury. Alwal was a preseason all-SEC selection. Vivians hit a jumper to push the home team to a 62-36 lead with 14:14 to go, and the game was never in doubt after that.
Mercer, which has eight freshmen on its roster, will play Nov. 21 in the WNIT consolation round. The Bears were disinterested in working from 3-point range against Mississippi State, taking just four shots when they fired up 12 3-pointers in their exhibition game on Nov. 9. They also had 20 turnovers against MSU.