Mississippi State crushes Creighton to advance in NCAA Tournament

Published 9:34 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Mississippi State fought its way out of the First Four to earn a Final Four rematch.

Jerkaila Jordan scored 20 points and led No. 11 seed Mississippi State to an 81-66 win against No. 6 Creighton in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament on Friday.

Jessika Carter, the 6-foot-5 Bulldog center, took advantage of the Bluejays’ undersized frontcourt to finish with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Anastasia Hayes chipped in 12 points and seven assists. Ahlana Smith and Asianae Johnson each added 10 points.

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“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.”

The Bulldogs picked up their second NCAA Tournament victory in coach Sam Purcell’s inaugural season. Mississippi State (23-10) defeated Illinois in a First Four match-up on Wednesday and will now face No. 3 Notre Dame (26-5) in the second round on Sunday. The Fighting Irish are hosting first and second-round NCAA games this weekend.

It’s a rematch of the 2018 national championship game, which Notre Dame won 61-58 with a 3-pointer in the final seconds. That’s the only time Mississippi State and Notre Dame have played each other in women’s basketball.

The time for Sunday’s game will be announced late Friday night, after all of the day’s first-round games are completed.

“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. They made 5 of 7 3-pointers in the first quarter and 11 of 19 in the game. They had missed 21 of 29 attempts from 3-point range over their last two games.

The Bulldogs were also 18-for-20 from the free throw line.

“We didn’t really expect them to come out and shoot it like that,” Creighton’s Lauren 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.”

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 percent 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.”