SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Jerkaila Jordan scored 20 and led No. 11 seed Mississippi State to an 81-66 win against No. 6 Creighton in the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday night.
Jessika Carter, the 6-5 Bulldog center, took advantage of the Bluejays’ undersized frontcourt, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Anastasia Hayes chipped in 12 points and seven assists. Ahlana Smith and Asianae Johnson each added 10 points.
“What a special group of young women,” coach Same Purcell said. “I’ve got the best seat in the house. They’ve got that look. We talked about coming up here and getting that championship DNA.”
Lauren Jensen scored 22 points to lead Creighton (22-9), which made a run to the regional final last season. Emma Ronsiek scored 21 points, hitting 3 of 6 shots from beyond the arc, but the rest of the Bluejays shot just 28.0% from the field
“They were the better team,” Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “I’m proud of our team. Not to discredit them, but this wasn’t the best of what we have shown this year.”
The Bulldogs picked up their second NCAA Tournament victory in coach Sam Purcell’s inaugural season. Mississippi State defeated Illinois in a First Four matchup on Wednesday.
Mississippi State (23-10) will face No. 3 Notre Dame (26-5) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Fighting Irish are hosting first and second-round NCAA games this weekend.
“We don’t mind being the underdog,” Smith said. “I think it makes us work harder. We understand that there’s a lot at stake, but we love being the underdog. It’s great. The pressure is not on us, so we’re able to play free, play confidently and for each other.”
Debreasha Powe hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Mississippi State a 6-0 lead in the first minute, and the Bulldogs never trailed.
Creighton battled throughout the first half before Mississippi State grabbed a commanding 20-point lead midway through the third quarter. At that point, the game felt out of reach for the Bluejays.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Mississippi State hit 11 of 19 shot attempts from beyond the arc, tying the program’s season-high for 3-pointers made in a game.
The Bulldog’s hot shooting performance caught the Bluejays by surprise, especially after Mississippi State missed 21 of 29 3-pointers over its last two games.
“We didn’t really expect them to come out and shoot it like that,” Jensen said. “Props to them, though. Obviously, they had a little bit of height on us in the post, so I bet they expected that we were going to try to cater most of our game plan to that.”
Creighton held opponents to 28.0% from deep this season, so the Bulldogs took advantage of those quality 3-point looks early by knocking down eight of them in the first half.
HE SAID IT
Purcell is thrilled to be in the NCAA Tournament. He sees it as the culmination of months of hard work and time away from family.
“We live a different life than other people,” Purcell said. “It’s a blessing, but also there are a lot of sacrifices. You don’t have to say Christmases or Thanksgivings as a normal person. So when March comes, it’s our Christmas. So for me, it’s the beauty of all the hard work, and you can see the prize.” BIG PICTURE
Mississippi State: advances with a chance to get to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the Bulldogs were a No. 1 seed in the 2018-19 NCAA Tournament.
Creighton: falls in the first round the year after the team’s incredible run last year.
“That’s the beauty of that tournament,” Flanery said. “Last year we had a magical run, but nothing’s guaranteed that was given. It just wasn’t our day.”
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