Bulldogs preview in-state rivalry

No. 9 Mississippi State hosts in-state rival Southern Miss Wednesday night before traveling to take part in the Puerto Rico Classic this weekend. Bulldogs’ coach Vic Schaefer along with sophomore guard Victoria Vivians and junior guard Dominique Dillingham discuss the USM game and what has made MSU successful so far this season.

Mississippi State Head Coach Vic Schaefer

Opening statement…

“I’m proud of my basketball team. Grades are in and I’m proud of us academically. We’re coming off a great win at Louisiana Tech. We played really well down there. They’re a good, young basketball team. I’m really proud of our kids and how we went down there and played. Now we have to come home and get ready for Southern Miss. We’re very familiar with them, and they’re very familiar with us. They’re coming off a win against [Ole Miss] in which they played really well and dominated the game. We’re expecting a hard-fought game tomorrow night against a well-coached team. We’ll have to really be ready to play. I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond after our game on Sunday [at Louisiana Tech].”

On his team leading the SEC in many statistical categories…

“I don’t really look a lot into that. On Sunday, we would have beaten a lot of teams. We executed and got good shots. We defended and disrupted. Our size was a factor on both ends of the floor. Our quickness was also a factor on both ends of the floor. I’ve heard that we’re pretty good nationally on defense. We held [Louisiana Tech] to 36 points in three quarters and gave up 27 in the fourth. What I can’t get out of my head is the 27 we gave up in the fourth quarter. I want the same effort, regardless of who is on the floor.  I want that same effort for 40 minutes. That’s what we’re trying to instill in our team. When you get an opportunity, we need you to function at a high level.”

On his team’s defensive performance…

“I just like our energy. I like our smarts when it comes to being in place to take charges. We’re fearless out there. I like our fearlessness and our energy. I like our excitement on our bench when we do something well defensively. We have a blitz package every time down. That’s how we play. I like our ability to still have some contain left when the blitz is broken.”

On how his team’s defense helps the offense…

“It goes back to the Texas game. They’ve scored well this year, and we held them to 53. If we could have done anything offensively, we would have had a chance to win that game. There will be nights when we struggle offensively. When that happens, your defense will give you a chance to win.”

On Victoria Vivians leading the SEC in scoring…

“As time goes on, I think people will try to do different things to stop her. If somebody tries to double-team her, she has some teammates that will make them pay. She has to learn to continue to grow, mature and know that when they have a stud guarding you, you’re still better. I’m still going to have confidence to call your number. We’re still going to win and you’re still going to score.”  

On how Vivians has developed defensively…

“I think she’s learning that she can be a factor on that end, too. She’s learning how hard you have to play on that end.”

On his team’s chemistry with Vivians playing well offensively…

“As important as [Vivians] is to our team, [Dominique Dillingham] is one that we don’t want to go to battle without. She knows I want her to score. There’s going to be a night when [Vivians] may have the flu or something else, and [Dillingham] will need to step up. It’s not about her making shots. She only took one shot at Louisiana Tech, but she was as impactful in that game as [Vivians] was, just from a defensive standpoint. If we had five like [Vivians], there would not be enough basketballs to go around. It’s good that we have kids here that want to win and know what it takes to win. Yes, [Vivians] has a job to do, but so does every other girl on the team. That’s what makes up the chemistry of a great basketball team. Everybody has a value, and their value is equal in their own impactful way.”

MSU G Dominique Dillingham

On differences in Victoria Vivians’ game from 2014-15 to this season…

“She’s making more shots because she’s taking better shots. She’s taking what the defense is giving her. I think she’s expanded her offensive game a lot more, too. You see her driving a lot more this year.”

On giving Vivians help on offense…

“On any given night, someone has to step up and help her. Having a balance in scoring will help.”

 On Vivians’ confidence on offense…

“Sometimes there’s a look in her eyes and we know that she’s going to score. Once she starts making shots, she’s not going to miss. I think she’s been more focused. When she’s locked-in, she’s locked-in.”

MSU G Victoria Vivians

On being from Mississippi and the meaning of playing Southern Miss…

“I’m going into this game just like it was any other game.”

On if her role in the offense has changed…

“I think it’s still the same. Last year, I rushed a lot of my shots. This year, I’m trying to take good shots and be patient.”

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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