MISSISSIPPI STATE 60, UTC 50
Payne 2-6 1-1 5, Joyner 7-10 2-2 17, Alford 2-12 0-0 5, K. Gilbert 4-11 2-2 10, Q. Gilbert 5-9 0-0 10, Vanlandingham 0-1 2-2 2, Johnson 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 20-51 8-9 50.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (27-7)
Dillingham 1-7 1-1 3, William 1-5 4-4 6, Chapel 1-5 0-0 2, Vivians 8-23 1-1 19, Okorie 4-9 4-6 12, Schaefer 0-1 0-0 0, Richardson 0-0 1-2 1, Williams 1-2 2-4 4, Holmes 0-1 2-2 2, McCowan 3-7 0-0 6, Salter 2-3 0-0 5. Totals 21-63 15-20 60.
UTC 16 5 19 10—50
Miss. State 11 18 17 14—60
3-point goals—UTC 2-13 (Joyner 1-2, Alford 1-4, Vanlandingham 0-1, Johnson 0-1, K. Gilbert 0-2, Q. Gilbert 0-3), MSU 3-12 (Vivians 2-9, Salter 1-2, Schaefer 0-1). Rebounds—UTC 29 (K. Gilbert 6), MSU 44 (Okorie 9). Assists—UTC 9 (Payne 5), MSU 10 (Chapel 5). Total fouls—UTC 18, MSU 19. Fouled out—Joyner. A—5,115.
STARKVILLE, Miss. — Jasmine Joyner was dazzling Friday afternoon for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team.
If only there had been more of her.
The 6-foot-2 junior center picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of a 60-50 loss to Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA tournament inside Humphrey Coliseum, and she sat out the rest of the first half. Joyner returned and wound up scoring 17 points in a furious 21 minutes before fouling out with 2:11 remaining.
"I felt like I let my team down," Joyner said. "When I came back in the second half, I knew I had to pick up my game and try to make up for it. I knew it was going to be hard for me to post up, so I practiced a lot of shooting, and that showed up a lot."
UTC dropped to 1-14 all-time in the NCAA women's tournament, with the one victory occurring in 2004 against Rutgers inside McKenzie Arena. The Southern Conference is 1-28 all-time in the NCAA women's event.
Joyner made seven of 10 shots and was 1-of-2 from 3-point range during her limited time on the floor. Aryanna Gilbert and Keiana Gilbert each added 10 points for the Mocs, who finished 24-8 in Jim Foster's third season as coach.
Foster said Mississippi State's physical play — the Bulldogs start 6-5 Chinwe Okorie inside and bring 6-7 Teaira McCowan off the bench — was his chief concern and described UTC's performance as a "mixed bag" in that regard.
"They were legit fouls on Jas, and I think she has to adjust," Foster said. "Shot-blockers have a mentality, but you're not going to block the shots of players who are that much bigger than you. Your objective should be positioning and boxing out, so I think she'll learn from that.
"There were some interesting calls, though, that I would like to look at again."
Mississippi State (27-7) will face Michigan State (25-8) in the second round on Sunday. The Spartans advanced earlier Friday with a 74-60 win over Belmont.
The Mocs started quickly, jumping to leads of 7-1 and 14-7. Joyner scored four early points before heading to the bench, and senior guard Alicia Payne tallied all five of her points in the first quarter to stake UTC to a 16-11 advantage.
"When Jas got the two quick ones, we knew we had to stay together," Payne said. "Sydney (Vanlandingham) did a good job of coming in, and we just had to stay together and try to find ways to keep going at them."
A Queen Alford jump shot two minutes into the second quarter gave the Mocs their last seven-point lead at 18-11, but the Bulldogs closed the half on an 18-3 run to take a 29-21 lead at the break. The height advantage with Okorie and McCowan took its toll on the Joyner-less Mocs, as Mississippi State built a 24-11 rebounding edge by halftime.
Joyner scored 11 points in the third quarter, and her two free throws with 5:57 remaining in the game got the Mocs within 49-46. Victoria Vivians, who led all scorers with 19 points, helped repel UTC's threat with a three-point play with 3:55 left that made it 54-46.
The Mocs won a fourth straight SoCon title this year but suffered midseason setbacks against Mercer and Samford that forced them to regroup and win the league tournament as the second seed. They have been playing since mid-November without top returning talent Chelsey Shumpert, who tore her lateral collateral ligament in the preseason NIT.
"We grew up a little bit — or a lot," Foster said. "When you lose your leading scorer and a two-year starter who's all-league, and then we lose Ary for five games, you have to scratch and crawl and figure out some stuff. When we figured it out, we became a pretty good team."
Payne is the lone senior on this year's Mocs, and she went out Friday with no regrets, playing the final 12 minutes with four fouls.
"It was a different year, because we had to grow up and be tough," she said. "I think we did a good job of staying together. I'm really proud of this team, and I am proud to have been a part of it as a senior."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.