TAMPA, Fla. — Mississippi State got schooled by South Florida.
Elisa Pinzan scored two of her team-high 14 points on late free throws in overtime, and South Florida beat No. 6 Mississippi State 67-63 on Saturday night.
“It’s a very good teaching moment,” first-year Mississippi State coach Nikki McCray-Penson said. “They’re learning how to play a lot of minutes and being able to produce and perform and understand what we’re doing. ”
The Bulldogs roster has one graduate, one senior, four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
“This is a great game to learn from,” McCray-Penson said, “Obviously it doesn’t feel good to lose.”
Bethy Mununga hit two free throws with 28.9 seconds left in OT to give South Florida a 65-63 lead.
Mississippi State’s Aliyah Matharu missed a layup and failed to score after getting her own rebound before Pinzan pushed the lead to the final four-point margin, hitting two free throws with 5.4 seconds to go.
Eight players scored to help USF (2-1) beat its first top-10 ranked opponent.
“It’s a great big win,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
Rickea Jackson scored 18 points for Mississippi State (2-1). Matharu finished with 17 and Jessika Carter added 15.
South Florida, considered a frontrunner in the American Athletic Conference following the departure of UConn to the Big East, completed a short stretch of consecutive games against teams ranked among the top six. The Bulls were coming off a 67-62 loss to No. 4 Baylor on Tuesday.
“This is huge, especially how we played Baylor,” Fernandez said. “It was a game of runs. We got the stops we needed to.”
A tight fourth quarter saw the teams trade one-point leads before the session ended tied at 60.
After the Bulldogs took a six-point advantage in the third, Maria Alvarez hit a pair of 3’s as USF went on an 11-0 run and took a 52-47 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Matharu had a three-point play as Mississippi State opened the second half with a 7-0 run to up 38-36.
Sydni Harvey and Pinzan had seven points each as South Florida took a 36-31 at the half. The Bulls outscored Mississippi State 25-12 in the second quarter and held the Bulldogs without a field goal for seven minutes.
Mississippi State went 12 of 20 from the line in the first half, while USF converted 5 of 6 attempts.