STARKVILLE, Miss. — On one of the first possessions of the night, Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians lost a shoe and hobbled around the court on defense for several seconds, gamely trying to stay with her assignment.
It was awkward. Much like the rest of the game.
No. 3 Mississippi State had one of its worst games of the season, especially on offense, but used a fourth-quarter rally to beat Georgia 58-49 on Thursday night. The Bulldogs (26-1, 12-1 Southeastern Conference) set a school record with their 12th conference victory.
“I’m not sure how we won the game to be honest,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said.
The short answer is a very good game from the bench, especially the post players. Reserves Ketara Chapel and Teaira McCowan each scored 14 points, which helped make up for the fact that the Bulldogs’ starting five shot 4 of 28 from the field.
Mississippi State came into the game averaging more than 77 points, which was tops in the SEC. But the Bulldogs looked completely out of sync during the first half, shooting just 6 of 28 (21.4 percent) from the field.
Georgia couldn’t generate much offense either, but 11 offensive rebounds led to a few easy baskets and a 21-19 halftime lead.
“It was a really frustrating night,” Schaefer said.
Mississippi State wasn’t a whole lot better in the second half, but Chapel converted a 3-point play — making a layup while being fouled — to give the Bulldogs a 48-46 lead with less than three minutes left that they wouldn’t surrender.
Chapel’s 14 points were a season high.
“We had to regroup during a halftime and see what we were made of,” Chapel said.
Caliya Robinson led Georgia (13-13, 5-8) with 13 points. After playing so well for three quarters, the Bulldogs were outscored 19-7 in the fourth.
“We knew it would be a low-scoring game and two teams that would come out and play great defense,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said. “They came out on the winning end of that. But I think our kids did a really good job of keeping them off balance.”
Georgia: It’s a difficult loss for Georgia, which had won three out of four coming into Thursday and played terrific defense for most of the night against Mississippi State. Georgia’s cold shooting touch in the fourth quarter spoiled the chance at a mammoth upset.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs get the win, but there are plenty of concerns after the offense looked very average for a second straight game. Vivians — the team’s leading scorer this season — had 10 points, but shot just 2 of 15 from the field, including 1 of 10 from 3-point range.
Schaefer on the struggles of Vivians, a junior, and senior guard Dominique Dillingham. The two were a combined 2 of 22 from the field on Thursday.
“That is a problem,” Schaefer said. “It will be addressed and we’re going to fix it. The way you fix it is you get in the gym. I know those kids have been in the gym off and on, but I need it on, period. We’re down to our last however many days and we’ve got a tremendous opportunity in front of us. As a senior and a junior, you should not have a confidence problem right now. And if you do, you’ve got to fix it.”
Georgia: Georgia returns home to host LSU on Sunday.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs go on the road to face Texas A&M on Sunday.
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