DURHAM, N.C. — The Tulane women’s basketball team went toe-to-toe with Mississippi State for about 25 minutes, but an icy spell in the middle of the second half doomed the Green Wave’s chances of an upset.
Breanna Richardson had 19 points and 12 rebounds, leading the Bulldogs to a 57-47 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
No. 5 seed Mississippi State (27-6), which already had set the school’s single-season victory mark under third-year coach Vic Schaefer, will take on No. 4 seed Duke (22-10) in the second round Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 in Spokane, Washington. Duke escaped a major upset with a 54-52 win over No. 13 seed Albany in Friday’s opener.
Morgan William chipped in 14 points for the Bulldogs, who got the victory despite a 2-for-14 shooting day from leading scorer freshman Victoria Vivians (seven points).
Friday’s result marked the second straight year the Bulldogs ended the season for the Green Wave — which was playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, as was MSU. The Bulldogs won the teams’ first-round matchup in the WNIT 77-68 last season in Starkville and now lead the all-time series 6-5.
Tulane led 29-27 following a Tiffany Dale layup with 15:46 to go, but the Green Wave’s next points came on a Kolby Morgan layup that cut the MSU advantage to 49-33 with 5:46 remaining.
“That was a heck of a basketball game,” Schaefer said. “Hats off to Tulane. They really competed, like I knew they would. At the start of the second half, they really stuck it to us. After we went to the media timeout, they went 10 minutes and scored two points.
“We knew we were going to be in a dogfight. ... I was glad to see our kids respond. We didn’t play very good. Give Tulane credit — they had a lot to do with it.”
Morgan, a freshman, led Tulane (22-11) with 17 points, and Jamie Kaplan added nine in her final collegiate game.
“It’s a tough situation,” said Tulane coach Lisa Stockton, who completed her 24th season at the helm (438-215). “Defensively we stopped Mississippi State from doing a lot of good things, but then we just couldn’t score.
“I think (MSU’s) defense was just tremendous, and it just made us take a lot of bad shots, and that kind of put us in a hole and we had to fight back out of that. But I’m proud of my team. I’ve got some seniors that have been really important to this program, and I hate it the most for them.”
Tulane’s most recent NCAA tournament win was three appearances back, when the Green Wave beat Colorado State 73-69 in a 2002 first-round game in Palo Alto, California.
MSU shot 35.7 percent to the Green Wave’s 27.7 and won the rebounding battle 43-34. Tulane committed 20 turnovers to the Bulldogs’ 16.
“(MSU) is just very physical and very aggressive,” Kaplan said. “They played extremely hard for 40 minutes. They get into the passing lanes, and they don’t make anything easy for you. I think it was great just to play in the NCAA tournament. Obviously we’re very disappointed that we won’t be playing on Sunday, but I’m really happy we were able to get this experience.”
The Bulldogs’ biggest lead was 51-33 on a Dominique Dillingham jumper with 4:10 to go. Tulane sliced the lead to 53-44 on a pair of Morgan free throws with 1:19 remaining but could get no closer.
“For me, (playing in the NCAA tournament) was a great experience,” Morgan said. “As a team we did well, but we thought we could do better. It’s another step.
“Next year, I’m not going to settle for the WNIT or something like that. I still want to get to this big stage. I’m always hungry for more.”