Duke, Mississippi State women prepare for 2nd-round game
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke is a traditional power in women's basketball.
Mississippi State is trying to become one as well.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils (22-10) face the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (27-6) on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament's Spokane Region.
The Blue Devils have 15 appearances in the Sweet 16 in the past 17 years. The Bulldogs have seven NCAA Tournament wins in their history.
Mississippi State center Martha Alwal said Saturday that ''I look at them as like a Tennessee or a South Carolina'' because they always seem to appear high in the national polls.
Even if the Bulldogs actually have a higher ranking - they were 12th in the final AP poll, four spots ahead of Duke.
Despite the difference in past success, the teams appear to be evenly matched at this point in this season.
Mississippi State set program records for wins, Southeastern Conference wins (11) and longest winning streak (18).
Duke, dealing with the in-season transfer of guard Sierra Calhoun and season-ending injuries to Oderah Chidom and Lynee Belton, needed a comeback in the final minute to get past 13th-seeded Albany 54-52 on Friday in the opening round.
''We would have had no ability to do that earlier in the year,'' Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. ''People like to take every Duke team and put it up on a pedestal, but the reality is that we have a very inexperienced team. And for what they've done, with the schedule we've had, given the injuries and the situations that have occurred, it's been remarkable.''
The Bulldogs are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2010, when they advanced to the Sweet 16 for the only time in program history. Mississippi State has reached 20 wins in consecutive seasons for only the second time.
The Bulldogs moved into the second round of the tournament with a 57-47 win over 12th-seeded Tulane, but they are looking for a much bigger victory Sunday.
''I'm still waiting for us to get it all together and click on one night for 40 minutes,'' Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. ''Offense, defense, all of it. I think that's still out there for this team.''
Here are some things to know about the game:
HOME SWEET HOME:
Duke has won 19 of its past 20 home games in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Devils have won 13 consecutive home games overall, including four victories against ranked opponents.
Duke's Rebecca Greenwell has made 68 3-pointers this season, a Duke record for freshmen. She made 6 of 11 3-point attempts against Albany and is shooting 35.4 percent on 3-pointers this season. The Bulldogs counter with the nation's third-best 3-point defense, which limits opponents to 24.4 percent.
CLASH OF THE TITANS:
The game will be a showcase for senior post players. Duke's Elizabeth Williams is the nation's leader in blocked shots and is eighth among active players in rebounds (1,060). Alwal of Mississippi State is third (324) and 12th (1,006) in those categories, respectively. Both players set school records for blocked shots in an NCAA Tournament game in the opening round. Williams had nine blocks against Albany, and Alwal blocked six shots against Tulane.
Mississippi State is 23-0 this season when holding opponents to 65 points or fewer. Duke has scored fewer than 65 points in five of its past seven games.
Mississippi State ranks 13th in the country in turnover differential, while Duke ranks in the bottom quarter of teams in that category after committing 27 turnovers against Albany. ''(Schaefer) is the defensive mastermind, and he knows that we don't have any point guards,'' McCallie said. ''So I think he's in a good seat, so to speak. But I'm excited for our kids to meet that challenge.''