No. 8 Mississippi State women beat 20th-ranked USF 68-58
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer had no complaints about his team's effort and energy this time out.
Two days after a ''lethargic,'' 40-point win over Southeastern Louisiana, the eighth-ranked Bulldogs delivered the kind of complete performance Schaefer would like to see routinely against No. 20 South Florida.
Victoria Vivians scored 23 points, Morgan William added 15 and the Bulldogs handled the Bulls 68-58 in the SEC-AAC Challenge on Wednesday.
Chinwe Okorie had eight points and 11 rebounds to help USF (13-1) win its eighth consecutive game.
''It's a good way to finish off our non-conference season because the gauntlet is here starting Sunday,'' Schaefer said, referring to Southeastern Conference play. ''The nightmare starts.''
Vivians reached double figures for the 13th straight game. She had 13 at halftime as Mississippi State built a 12-point lead.
Vivians and William helped the Bulldogs stretch the lead to 62-40 late in the third quarter, with William hitting 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in the foul-laden period.
They coasted from there, giving Schaefer none of the same head-scratching moments that baffled him Monday night against Southeastern Louisiana.
''I think better teams, obviously, pique the interest of our players,'' Schaefer said. ''That's a part of growing up a little bit. I want everybody to pique their interest.''
The Bulls (7-3) had no answer down low for Vivians or the 6-foot-5 Okorie. Mississippi State finished with 30 points in the paint.
The Bulldogs seized control with a 13-0 run midway through the first quarter. Most of the damage came down low. Vivians also hit a 3-point in the game-changing stretch.
She came up big again in the fourth, hitting two huge baskets that prevented the Bulls from getting it to single digits.
''She hit some big buckets there in the fourth period, when we kind of dying on the vine,'' Schaefer said.
USF's biggest problem was an off night from American Athletic Conference standout Courtney Williams. Williams, who entered the game as the nation's fourth-leading scorer, missed her first 10 shots. She played a minute in the fourth quarter before getting benched. She finished with 12 points on 4-of-20 shooting.
''Do you continue to go with that?'' USF coach Jose Fernandez said. ''Just gave some other guys some opportunities to play. ... She's got to find other ways to get to the basket and get to the free-throw line.''
Laura Ferreira led the Bulls with 19 points. Alisia Jenkins added 15.
Ferreira came up with several big shots late, but Vivians answered each one.
Florida coaches were courtside scouting Mississippi State during the game, something that didn't sit well with Schaefer. The two programs open SEC play against each other Sunday in Gainesville.
''There's an NCAA rule in place that prohibits scouting unless you're in a tournament setting,'' Schaefer said. ''This is not a tournament. But they were given the approval to scout today by our conference office, so I'll leave it at that.
''I didn't play this game so I could scout Florida against Central Florida. To me, we're dancing around a rule that was put in place to not allow in-person scouting.''
South Florida: Fell to 0-2 against ranked teams this season. ... Played just its second game in the last 17 days. Team's game at Northern Colorado on Dec. 15 was canceled. ... Fell to 9-49 against SEC teams. ... Won the previous meeting against USF in the 2014 NIT quarterfinals.
Mississippi State: Will return to Jacksonville in early March for the SEC women's basketball tournament. ... Improved to 4-0 in neutral-site games this season. ... Has just one senior on its roster, forward Sherise Williams.
South Florida plays at East Carolina on Saturday.
Mississippi State plays at Florida on Sunday.