August 26, 2014 3:25:41 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State women's basketball team will pick up where it left off last season when it begins the 2014-15 non-conference slate in the Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament.
Following a Nov. 9 exhibition against Arkansas-Fort Smith, MSU will open the campaign and the WNIT at 8 p.m. Nov. 14 against Mercer, a squad that returns three starters from last season's 17-14 team. The game will be the second half of a men's-women's doubleheader, as Rick Ray's Bulldogs will face Western Carolina at 5:30 p.m.
Vic Schaefer's squad is one of nine in the 16-team field to make the postseason a year ago. Like MSU, three other squads advanced to the WNIT, while five teams went to the NCAA tournament.
MSU will be guaranteed three games in the tournament, and a win in the first round would pit MSU against Jackson State or another WNIT squad, Arkansas State.
"I'm excited about our schedule. It's a challenging schedule and a step up from where we've been our first two years here," Schaefer said. "Being in the Preseason WNIT is a great opportunity, and playing our first two games at home against quality opponents will be big for us."
The WNIT semifinals are set for Nov. 20, while the championship game will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 23 (CBS Sports Network).
Following the Preseason WNIT, MSU will play four of its next five in Humphrey Coliseum, beginning with a Nov. 25 game against Louisiana-Monroe. It will hit the road to face New Orleans on Nov. 29 before returning home for a three-game stretch that includes North Dakota State (Dec. 2), Southeastern Louisiana (Dec. 7), and Louisiana Tech (Dec. 11).
The Bulldogs venture to Hattiesburg on Dec. 14 for a rematch of the WNIT second round against Southern Miss. The following day, MSU will play host to Mississippi Valley State before heading back to Louisiana on Dec. 17 to meet Louisiana-Lafayette.
MSU then will go to Las Vegas to participate in the Las Vegas Holiday Hoops Classic, where it will face defending Women's Basketball Invitational champion Illinois-Chicago at 9:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and Miami University at 4 p.m. the following day.
"We have some road games that are concerning for me as the head coach. We are going into some places to play some teams that are notoriously well coached and disciplined," Schaefer said. "The trip to Las Vegas right before Christmas will give us a good opportunity to show a different part of the country who we are and what we are about."
MSU will conclude the pre-conference slate Dec. 29 at home against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
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