Mississippi State Women's Basketball Faces Must-Win in SEC Tournament Opener

Mississippi State women's basketball enters the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament with their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line.
Mississippi State forward Jessika Carter (4) scores near Texas A&M forward Jada Malone (13)
Mississippi State forward Jessika Carter (4) scores near Texas A&M forward Jada Malone (13) / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mississippi State women's basketball (21-10, 8-8 SEC) faces Texas A&M (18-11, 6-10) in the 8/9 game of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Thursday in Greenville, South Carolina. Both the Bulldogs and Aggies enter the game with their NCAA Tournament hopes on the line, and one thing is very clear: the loser will not be going dancing.

Sam Purcell's squad once looked prime to earn a double-bye to the SEC Tournament and seemed to be a shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament. But a late season five-game losing streak ended any talk of a Top-4 conference finish and, more importantly, has put the Bulldogs at serious risk of missing out on the Big Dance.

State managed to right the ship in their regular season finale over Missouri, but they are still far from safely making the tournament. Their postseason hopes hinge on beating Texas A&M in their SEC Tournament opener. Let's take a look at the Aggies...

A look at Texas A&M Aggies women's basketball

Texas A&M women's basketball is 18-11 on the season with a 6-10 SEC record. They finished ninth in the SEC standings. They own impressive wins over Tennessee and Ole Miss but ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak.

The Aggies have struggled on offense, scoring just 69 PPG, shooting 41% overall and 28% from three. They play good defense, allowing just 58 PPG, 38% shooting, and 29% three-point shooting. They're a good rebounding team and do a good job of forcing and capitalizing on opponent turnovers.

Three Aggies average double-figures, led by Endyia Rogers at 12.8 PPG. Rogers also leads in assists and has been their go-to three-point shooter. Lauren Ware leads the team with 7.9 rebounds to go along with 9.2 PPG.

What happened in Game 1 between Mississippi State women's basketball and Texas A&M?

Mississippi State women's basketball defeated Texas A&M 74-63 on February 4, with the Bulldogs pulling away in the fourth quarter. Erynn Barnum led State with 22 points on 9-11 shooting. Jerkaila Jordan had a double-double. Turnovers and free throws were the difference for MSU. They forced 22 turnovers for 23 points and went 22-29 from the line.

SEC Women's Basketball Tournament history

Mississippi State women's basketball has played Texas A&M three times in the SEC Tournament. In 2017, 2-seed MSU defeated 6-seed A&M 66-55 in the semifinals. The teams met in the semis again in 2018, with 1-seed MSU winning 70-55 over the 5-seed Aggies. Last season, the 13-seed Aggies upset the 5-seed Bulldogs 79-72 in the second round.

How to watch Mississippi State women's basketball vs Texas A&M

Mississippi State women's basketball will play Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament at 11:00 am CT on the SEC Network, also available in the ESPN app.

Mississippi State women's basketball must win if it wants to make the NCAA Tournament

Mississippi State women's basketball finds itself as one of the Last Four In in ESPN's most recent women's bracketology. If the Bulldogs lose, they will fall out of the bracket, especially because Texas A&M is currently the First Team Out. If they Aggies win, they'd almost certainly replace State in the field.

But with that being said, if they win, Mississippi State should remain in the field and could likely gain some breathing room. Sam Purcell's team struggled down the stretch in the regular season, but they can still achieve their ultimate goal of returning to the NCAA Tournament if they can beat Texas A&M on Thursday.