STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Victoria Vivians scored 22 points, Roshunda Johnson added 18 and No. 7 Mississippi State beat Virginia 68-53 on Friday night.
Virginia kept things close for a while, tying the game at 18 midway through the second quarter. But Mississippi State methodically pulled away from that point, pushing ahead 33-23 at halftime and 54-37 after the third quarter.
Vivians shot 8 of 15 from the field while Johnson made four 3-pointers. Freshman forward Chloe Bibby added 13 points.
It was an emotional night for Mississippi State, which raised its national finalist banner to the Humphrey Coliseum rafters during a pregame ceremony. The Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament Final Four for the first time in school history last year and went on to upset No. 1 UConn in the semifinals before losing to South Carolina in the national championship game.
Virginia was led by Dominique Toussaint, who scored 17 points. The Cavaliers had 23 turnovers.
Virginia: The Cavaliers were competitive for much of the first half, but couldn't score enough to keep pace with Mississippi State. Virginia returns most of its team from last season, when it finished 20-13 overall, including 7-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs had a solid opener despite losing their shooting touch for much of the first half. A flurry of 3-pointers during the third quarter helped them pull away. Mississippi State is trying to build some post depth after losing several players from last year's team, so Bibby's 13 points were encouraging.
Virginia will host Central Connecticut on Sunday.
Mississippi State will host Georgia State on Thursday.