MSU readies for top 10 showdown

No. 10 Mississippi State will host one of the biggest games in school history on Sunday, squaring off against second-ranked South Carolina. Bulldogs’ coach Vic Schaefer and junior guard Dominique Dillingham talk about the challenges of facing the Gamecocks and the successful home atmosphere they have created at Humphrey Coliseum.

Head Coach Vic Schaefer

Opening Statement…
“We are really excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans, and play in front of a great crowd. I’m really proud of our fans and the support we have had over the years. In three and a half years, we’ve gone from 1,100 season ticket holders to over 3,000, and we’ve had crowds over 7,000 a couple of times. I think Sunday is going to be a record setter. I am really proud. I appreciate the support we’ve received from our fan base, the administration and the community. It’s not like this in most places. I think we’ve set 15 of the 20 school records in the short time we’ve been here for attendance. I am really pleased for my players; that’s why you play the game. That’s why you go to school at certain places; it’s why you invest so much blood, sweat and tears. For them to be able to experience playing in front of their people, their fans, is really going to be special. Again, I am very thankful for the support that we have here at Mississippi State. Women’s basketball is important; it has been since the day I was hired. It’s the reason why I came here. This is part of what you do when you are trying to win a championship.”

On how the Hump ranks in the SEC…
“You would have to ask the other 13 coaches, but I think they would all agree that the Hump has turned into a very difficult place to play. Again, I am very proud of what we’ve been able to create here with the environment and home court advantage for our players. For them to be able to experience that as a student-athlete is very special. People know when they come to Mississippi State they are going to play in front of 5,000 people a night.  Last year we averaged over 4,000; this year it is going to be well over 5,000. Again, that’s part of the student-athlete experience, and I think that’s part of building the program and doing what we do.”

On building a fan base…
“My experience is, and we are doing it still, is doing it because of our kids. I think people identify with our players; they want their young sons and daughters to watch our kids play because of how we play the game, how hard we play the game. I talk about how we honor the game, with our effort and enthusiasm. I think parents want their young children to see that and emulate that. I think our older fans appreciate our kids, how they play the game. I think our style of play has more to do with why we have the fan base that we have and the people coming to see us play. That’s why 00 (Dominique Dillingham) is most people’s favorite player because of how she plays the game. She is not our leading scorer or our leading rebounder. However, she does all the little things, all the dirty work, and she welcomes it. She is just a basketball player.”

On playing South Carolina…
“It’s a daunting task. South Carolina is very talented, well-coached, play the game like we do; very hard, defend hard, physical inside, athletic. They have all of the tools. They were in the Final Four a year ago, and probably hung our worst loss on us last year, so it is a daunting task. I think we have to go play our game. We have to do what we do. We are going to have to make shots, because I don’t think you shut them down. I think you have to compete every possession defensively to give yourself a chance. Then offensively, you are going to have to find a chance on offense from more than one person. I think that is the challenge we face on Sunday. I don’t think anyone will walk out of the arena Sunday afternoon disappointed in my kids’ effort. I think that is what brings people back. That’s the respect our kids have earned over the years. That’s the least of my worries. My concern is I’m trying to compete and beat number two in the country, and trying to figure out a way to do that in basically one day of prep.”

On preparing to play…
“It’s a big challenge, but the rules dictate that we had to take a day off. The next game is always the most important. Georgia was the most important after we played Ole Miss on Monday, so we had two days of prep for them. Our week is Sunday to Saturday, and obviously we couldn’t take Sunday off before we played on Monday, so we are going to have to take today off. It’s very difficult, but at the same time, I think that’s when you rely on your fundamentals, especially defensively. Our kids will have great focus tomorrow; I am confident of that. We will come in, have a great practice in the morning, then try to get off of our feet for the rest of the day, watch the men’s game and go from there.”

On the Georgia game…
“We didn’t shoot it well. It wasn’t anything magical. It was a 2-3 zone. The first half we were not attacking; we were settling. The second half I started running man offense against the zone just to make our kids move and get a little bit of an aggression to them, and I think we scored 29 or 31 points. It wasn’t rocket science, we just stunk it up the first half offensively.” 

Dominique Dillingham – Jr., G

On how the crowd affects the team’s play…
“Having the crowd behind us ignites us and helps us go on those runs.  It helps us when we are down. When they support us, it makes a big difference every game.”

On last season’s game at South Carolina…
“They played really hard. Their home court advantage was key. All their fans are really loud. They have so many weapons, so it is hard to stop them. When you can’t score on offense it is hard to stay with them. We have to take it one play at a time. If they score, we need to score too.”

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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