LAS VEGAS – No. 15 Mississippi State won the 2019 Duel in the Desert title with a 72-59 victory against Virginia at Cox Pavilion on Saturday.
Rickea Jackson was named tournament Most Valuable Player after averaging 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Against the Cavaliers, she finished with a team-high 17 points and five boards. Jessika Carter also earned a spot on the all-tournament team after posting her fourth double-double of the season with 13 points and 15 rebounds against UVA.
"I'm really proud of our kids," said head coach Vic Schaefer. "I think they are getting better. I think we showed some toughness today and got some tough rebounds. We took a bunch of charges. I love how hard we are playing defensively. I think that is slowly becoming the make up of this team. We may not be like the team the last two or three years that averages 85 points a game, but I think this team will compete and defend. Their chemistry defensively is coming. That is what is exciting for me.
"I thought Rickea had a tremendous tournament. Her and Jessika were both really special. Jessika had a double-double today. I just think Rickea is getting more comfortable in every game we play. Jordan Danberry was solid offensively and really played hard defensively in the second half after getting in foul trouble early."
After not competing in one last year, this marked Mississippi State's first regular-season tournament title since 2017, when the Bulldogs (11-2) won that edition of the Duel in the Desert.
State won the battle in the paint with a 39-33 edge on the glass and outscored Virginia 30-26 down low. MSU led for 35 minutes of the game and never looked back after going down by one point five minutes into the first quarter.
Danberry and JaMya Mingo-Young each chipped in 10 points to round out the double-digit scorers for State. Myah Taylor had a solid game at the one spot, finishing with eight assists, five points and two steals.
State began the game with a hot hand from beyond the arc, knocking down five 3-pointers to take a 20-12 lead after the first quarter. Mingo-Young and Xaria Wiggins both hit a pair of threes in the period to spark the offense. Mingo-Young nine in the quarter.
"Probably the player of the tournament is Xaria Wiggins," said Schaefer. "She has come from nowhere to play 18-20 minutes both games. She is just the X-factor right now because she can play the three and the four. She is a big wing and a big guard. She can defend both, and she just provides a real boost to our bench. We will see if she can develop some consistency. She hasn't been consistent, but it sure would be nice to have that in your hip pocket knowing that you have somebody like her who can come in and be so multiple for us. She played really well this tournament. She would be my MVP."
Virginia opened the second stanza with an 11-4 run and eventually tied the game at 26-26, but the Bulldogs finished the first half strong by holding the Cavaliers to just one basket during the final 5:55 of play. MSU extended its lead to double digits and entered intermission up 40-30. Jackson had a big second quarter with 10 points, including six straight to end the frame.
Mississippi State put the game away in the second half, using an 11-0 run in the third quarter and holding UVA to 29-percent shooting in the final frame to earn the 13-point victory. For the game, MSU shot 44 percent from the field.
Up next, State will take on Little Rock on Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum to round out its non-conference slate. That game will be televised on SEC Network+ and will be carried on the MSU Radio Network.