SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)Jessika Carter had 22 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, Anastasia Hayes added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Mississippi State beat Illinois 70-56 on Wednesday night to begin the NCAA Tournament in a First Four game.
Mississippi State (21-10) advances to the field of 64 to take on No. 6 seed Creighton. The Bulldogs improved to 14-3 in the NCAA Tournament since the 2016-17 season.
Freshman Debreasha Powe scored four points during Mississippi State’s 11-2 run to begin the third quarter for a 42-32 lead. The Bulldogs extended it to 52-38 at the end of the quarter after shooting 53%. Kourtney Weber sank a 3-pointer to cap a 9-1 run to begin the fourth quarter for a 61-39 lead.
After Mississippi State’s lead was cut to 12 points with 4:19 left, Carter scored four straight points to reach 20-plus for the sixth time this season.
JerKaila Jordan also scored 11 points for Mississippi State. Weber finished with eight points.
Carter scored 10 points in the first half to help build a 31-30 lead. Makira Cook scored 11 points for Illinois, which shot 48% from the field but didn’t attempt a free throw compared to Mississippi State’s 10 of 12.
Cook, averaging 18.2 points per game, scored 21 points and Genesis Bryant added 17 for Illinois (22-10), which had one of the best turnarounds in the country after finishing last season with a record of 7-20. Illinois’ first free throws of the game came with 5:35 left in the third quarter.
The Illini were making their eighth trip to the NCAA Tournament, the first since 2003.
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25