MSU gets second shot against Missouri

No. 11 Mississippi State sits second in the Southeastern Conference standings with a 7-3 league mark. One of the Bulldogs’ losses came at Missouri 66-54 on Jan. 14. The Tigers travel to Starkville on Sunday and MSU coach Vic Schaefer is seeking a better effort from his team in the rematch.

Opening Statement…

“Well, first just about last night, I’m really proud of how we executed. Winning on the road we had a very businesslike mindset. We faced an awfully good zone and were able to attack that and shoot 49% while only having 12 turnovers. I like how we are sharing the basketball. My four players, Ketara (Chapel) and (Breanna Richardson), went 7 for 8. Victoria (Vivians) goes 6 for 11, (Dominique Dillingham) goes 4 for 9, and we took really good three pointers, 5 out of 12 from out there. I’m proud of my bench. I thought LaKaris (Salter), Blair (Schaefer) and Sherise (Williams) all came in the first half and made an immediate impact on the game. I was pleased with them and how well they played, Kayla (Nevitt) played well coming off the bench as well. Big T (Teaira McCowan) had a really good last four or five minutes. It was a good win. It is good to win on the road, but now we have to get ready to play a team that obviously kind of handed us our tail about three or four weeks ago. I don’t think I’ll have to do anything in particular to get our kids focused and ready.  We did not play well in Columbia, and they played really well and had everything to do with us not playing well. As I said after that ball game, we got taken to the woodshed and we’ve got them coming in on Sunday.”

On offense being an issue in the road losses and what has changed…

“It has been a combination of shot selection and a couple of those games we were just content with letting (Victoria) bail us out of bad offense. Instead now, we’ve got Morgan (William) and Dom out there being accountable. Dom took a shot late in the shot clock last night and got fouled, as where a month ago she probably would have passed the ball off to someone else and let them do it. That is something we have been talking about. I need Dom to be an offensive threat every night. If she could go 5 for 12 every night, I’d be the happiest guy on Earth. Last night she went 4 for 9 and made some really good decisions with two assists and a steal. Again, we’ve got four kids in double figures and I do think right now we are sharing the ball a lot better and taking better shots. We are moving the ball and attacking the zone in the way you are supposed to attack the zone to get good, wide-open shots. I thought when we got open 15 footers last night we made them. I think that in itself is the biggest difference in where this team is. When we get an open look, we’re burying it. Ketara is a great place to start. She was 4 for 4 last night and is playing with a lot of confidence.”

On how much the team has evolved and matured…

“I think there is a big difference in what we are doing offensively, no question. I just think it’s unfortunate that it takes a game like Georgia to kind of wake you up, make you aware and refocus. We are light years offensively better, but I said it last night, my point guard is getting healthy. Morgan is feeling better. Yesterday is the first day I’ve asked Morgan how she was feeling and she said ‘Coach, I feel pretty good.’  You get her back healthy and get her back going, it changes the whole dynamic of our team, especially tempo-wise on our offense. I’m anxious to see her at practice today, but I saw her this morning in my office and she said she was fine. Getting her healthy is big for our success.”

On how he uses the loss to Missouri to motivate his team…

“I’ve got a good, pretty smart team and it wasn’t that long ago. They know how it felt to walk out of there that night. They know it’s about how hard we play the game and I think they were disappointed that night about how we played. I don’t think there is going to be a lot of conversation about that. I think the conversation is going to be about we have another Top 25 team coming in here. They are well coached, have a lot of good players, including McDonald’s All-Americans, and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

On maturation of Vivians and her rebounding impact…

“It’s big. She had eight defensive and one offensive, and the one she got on offense she stuck it back in. We need her to help us rebound because she’s got such a great frame and is down there a lot. It is really big. Her whole game is coming around right now and it’s helping us win. I think she is sacrificing some stats right now for her team. That is what you want. Your great players make everyone around you better. I think she is doing that right now.”

On how the attacking mindset has sunk in…

“I think it has sunk in. I think we are attacking the rim more. We are sharing the basketball more. Again, part of our free throw disparity between this year and last year has been Morgan and her ability to go off the bounce. I think she is getting back to her old self. I’ve noticed that free throw disparity, too.”

On what Missouri did to stop the team…

“We couldn’t make shots. We just did not shoot the ball well at all that night. We didn’t defend. They scored on 11 of their first 14 possessions. It just wasn’t a good night for the Bulldogs for whatever reason. We just couldn’t score. We just weren’t very effective at all. If I remember right, we got it cut to eight and had possession in the middle of the third quarter, and we turn it over out top and they lay it in. Instead of cutting it to six, remember we were down twenty in the first half, it is now a 12-point game and that is kind of where it stayed. They played with a lot of passion that night, a lot of energy, which they typically do.  When I walked off the floor that night, my comment was that they played like I like to play. Robin (Pingeton) has done an awesome job with that program. They’ve got good players and they are better. Obviously, they’ve been in the Top 25 all year. We’ve had some knock-down, drag-outs with them in our four years here. I don’t expect anything different on Sunday.”

On changing things in practice…

“I’ve sacrificed some drill work defensively and, quite frankly, I think that it shows defensively. Nobody else will think that, but I do. We only took one charge that I know of. And had three or four blocks called, which is very unusual for our team. The bottom line is you’ve got to score more points than the other team. We’ve spent a little more time on offense of late and I’d like to think that it has paid off a little bit. We haven’t sacrificed too much defensively. I don’t think anyone walked out of the South Carolina game saying ‘I don’t think they are near as good defensively.’ I think we were pretty good that night.”

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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