Hail State Hoops returns for its 42nd season Friday as the No. 11 Mississippi State women’s basketball team opens the season against Samford in Humphrey Coliseum.
Tip for the battle of Bulldogs is set for 5:15 p.m. on SEC Network + as the opening half of a men’s-women’s doubleheader. Fans unable to make it to campus can watch online at www.watchespn.com or via the WatchESPN app.
The contest will also be broadcast on WKBB-FM 100.9 in the Golden Triangle area, WXWX-FM 96.3 in Tupelo, and WKCU-FM 92.9 and WKCU-AM 1350 in Corinth.
Individual tickets cost $15 and are good for both contests. Women’s season ticket holders can stay for the men’s game, but are asked to relocate to open seats in the arena.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.hailstate.com/tickets, by phone at 1-888-GO-DAWGS or on game day at the Humphrey Coliseum ticket office. Humphrey Coliseum doors open at 4 p.m.
In addition, men’s parking will be in effect, which means lots in Palmeiro, Sanderson, MacArthur and the Soccer Complex are reserved. However, extra shuttles will be available to move fans from other parking areas to the Hump. The Gameday parking assistance center phone line will also be available beginning at 4 p.m. and can assist with parking information or dispatching carts. That number is (662) 325-9114.
The Bulldogs, under the guidance of reigning SEC Coach of the Year Vic Schaefer, enter the season ranked 11th in the Associated Press preseason poll and No. 13 by USA Today.
“We are excited to be able to have our home opener on Friday. With both us and the men playing Friday night, and football hosting Alabama on Saturday, it’s just a great time to be a Bulldog and should be a tremendous, tremendous weekend for our fans and for this great university,” Schaefer, MSU’s fourth-year coach, said. “We are just excited to be a part of it, and we are excited to have a chance to represent this great university.
We’re going to have so many fans in town. We have a saying in our program, ‘You get one first chance to make a first impression.’ I always say, ‘If you come see us play once, you might never miss another one.’ We’ll have a chance to make a first impression with a lot of people on Friday night, and we’re excited about that opportunity. I think going into our fourth season we have a lot of first impression people that are now season ticket holders.”
Mississippi State comes into 2015-16 off a record-setting 2014-15 campaign that saw the Dawgs set new school standards for overall (27) and SEC (11) wins while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs saw their first action of the season Tuesday, routing Mississippi College 128-34. Five MSU players scored double figures, led by 21 points from sophomore Blair Schaefer and 19 from Preseason First Team All-SEC selection Victoria Vivians.
Vivians returns for her sophomore campaign after leading the Bulldogs with a 14.9 scoring average that ranked third highest in the SEC and tops among league rookies. The Carthage native’s stellar debut season earned her AP All-America Honorable Mention accolades as well as Second Team All-SEC laurels.
Vivians’ classmate Morgan William returns following a rookie season that saw her earn SEC All-Freshman Team honors after scoring 9.1 ppg and rating fourth in the conference with 3.6 apg. The Birmingham, Ala., native also set a school record for the highest free-throw percentage in a season, making 84.2 percent.
Junior Breanna Richardson is the team’s top returning rebounder after claiming 5.7 rpg. The Conyers, Ga, product also rated fourth on the squad in scoring at 8.4 ppg. Richardson tallied 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in Tuesday’s exhibition victory.
Fellow junior Dominique Dillingham added eight points but also collected eight steals Tuesday, picking up from a standout sophomore season that saw her tie for third in the SEC with 2.0 spg.
Like the Bulldogs, Samford also has experience returning with four starters back from last year’s team that went 15-15 and 8-6 in the Southern Conference.
“(Samford) is going to spread us out. It’s going to be a challenge, especially for players like Chinwe (Okorie) and Teaira (McCowan), to have to get out on the perimeter to cover those five that can really shoot the three,” Schaefer said. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us, and it’s going to be good for us.”
Destiney Elliott, who averaged 9.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season, paced the Birmingham-based Bulldogs with 20 points and seven boards in a 65-36 exhibition win against Birmingham-Southern on Monday.
Taylor Reece, who averaged 10.6 ppg a year ago, tallied nine points on Monday.
Friday’s contest will be just the second time the teams have met, with MSU claiming the first meeting 80-41 during the 2009-10 Sweet 16 season.
Mississippi State has won its last 11 season openers and is 29-12 all-time. The Bulldogs have also been impressive in home debuts, winning 29 straight and 39 of 41.
(From MSU Media Relations)