MS State cruises past Illinois in NCAA First Four
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Mississippi State keeps dancing with its 70-56 win over Illinois in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. With the victory, the Bulldogs earned their 21st win of the season and 23rd all-time NCAA Tournament win.
The Bulldogs went into halftime with a one-point lead after going back and forth with the Illini the entire second quarter, which included six lead changes in the first half alone. Coming out of the locker room, State came full speed ahead, scoring 11 of the first 13 points and outscoring Illinois 21-8 in the third quarter. State's defense dominated the third quarter, holding Illinois to their lowest field goal percentage in the third quarter this season (9%).
Jessika Carter made her presence known, putting up 22 points with nine rebounds on the night. Carter's 22 points are the most she scored in an NCAA Tournament game in her career. Carter added four blocked shots to her stat line, her seventh game this season with at least four blocked shots.
Anastasia Hayes came out strong, scoring 11 points with seven rebounds and a team-high five assists. JerKaila Jordan was the only other Bulldog to score in double figures on Wednesday. After scoring just one point in the first half, Jordan came alive in the second half scoring 10 of her 11 points, including six points in the fourth quarter.
- State's bench outscored Illinois 20-6 • Ramani Parker knocked down two three-point shots in the first quarter, tying her career-high in made triples.
- Hayes was perfect from the free-throw line knocking down six free throws in the first half.
- Mississippi State held Illinois to shooting 9% from the field while the Bulldogs shot 53% in the third quarter.
- Illinois made just one field goal in the third quarter
- Carter has now scored 20-plus points in six games this season
- The Bulldogs outrebounded Illinois 47-28, including a 16-7 advantage on the offensive glass.
- State dished out 15 assists, with Illinois having only five.
- Ahlana Smith and Jordan each had three steals. • The Bulldogs improved to 14-3 in NCAA Tournament games since 2017.
- MSU improved to 4-4 all-time vs. the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament.
- State is 2-1 when seeded 11th in the big dance.
Quoting Coach Sam Purcell
On winning his first tournament game as a head coach
"Here you go. You know you always get me. You get me. I'm not doing it. Again, it's not about me. I appreciate all the love and the recognition, but I would not be sitting here today if I wasn't coaching a great group of young women. For me to have my first year to get Annie Hayes, JerKaila Jordan, and Jessika Carter, come on, that's the lottery. So again, my goal as a head coach was just to restore the love. Love, like Annie said, she was talking about AAU. These folks who play AAU, they love the game. We've got to Christmas. Let's turn it up and become a team. So to answer your question again, it's awesome. I'm blessed with a group who believes in me. They trusted me. They've got my back. And then you'll see in the locker room videos, they also dance with me. I love it."
Mississippi State will take on the No. 6 seeded Creighton Bluejays in the Round of 64. That game is scheduled for Friday, March. 17 at 5:00 p.m. CT.