December 22, 2014 10:17:51 AM
LAS VEGAS -- Kendra Grant had a season-high 14 points Saturday night to lead three players in double figures in the No. 21 Mississippi State women's basketball team's 73-36 victory against Illinois Chicago in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic at South Point Arena.
Victoria Vivians added 12 points and Dominique Dillingham had 10 to help MSU extend its season-opening winning streak to a program-best 13.
Vivians, who entered the game with a team-best 16.3 points per game scoring average, has scored in double figures in 11 of 13 games. Grant's offensive output gives her double-figure scoring in two of the past three games.
"We are going to need Kendra Grant, I have said that all along," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "She came out and really gave us some solid minutes. She made some shots. I thought (Jerica James) had a great game, floor general wise. She did a good job as our point guard. It was one of her best games, if not the best game, of her season."
The 36 points allowed matched the fewest points allowed by the Bulldogs this season. They have held five of their last six opponents to 51 or fewer points.
"We forced 30 turnovers tonight," Schaefer said. "I was really proud of our effort tonight. I thought we played with great energy and great focus. We were committed defensively. I am really proud of our kids. This is the team I am used to seeing night in, night out. It was a good step."
MSU, which never trailed, used a 7-0 run to build a 17-7 advantage. Grant capped the run with a 3-pointer and two free throws.
MSU closed the half with a 12-1 run to open a 39-18 halftime advantage. The Bulldogs held the Flames to one free throw in the final 5 minutes, 29 seconds of the half.
In the opening half, the Bulldogs shot 37.5 percent from the field, including a 5 of 14 half from 3-point range. MSU also hit 10 of its first 12 free throws.
The Bulldogs used the mixture of strong inside play and pressure defense to open the second half with a 12-4 run. The Flames managed two field goals in the first six minutes. Vivians capped the run with a 3-pointer to make it 51-22.
The Bulldogs forced the Flames into 30 turnovers. MSU has forced 20 or more turnovers in a game 11 times this season, and 30 or more turnovers in three of the past four games. MSU scored 34 points off the takeaways.
"I am excited for this team (to have 13-straight wins)," Schaefer said. "I am glad this team is having this opportunity. Hopefully, we can get to 14 and 15 and keep it going. It will be hard record for somebody to break down the line.
"We had a good contingent tonight. I was proud of the crowd. This is how it is supposed to be. We traveled like a top-25 team and played like a top-25 team."
MSU was hit 25 of 77 from the field (32.5 percent), 8 of 22 from 3-point range (36.4), and 15 of 19 from the free-throw line (78.9). UIC was 10 of 46 from the field (21.7), 0 of 5 from 3-point range, and 16 of 25 from the free-throw line (64).
MSU held a 51-44 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 14 turnovers, while the Flames had four assists and 30 turnovers.
Dillingham and Martha Alwal each had eight rebounds for the Bulldogs.
UIC received 13 points and 15 rebounds from Ruvanna Campbell.
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