November 13, 2012 4:18:52 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer knew there were going to be games like the one he experienced Monday night.
But that didn't make it any easier to deal with for a coach who has helped lead one school the Final Four and another to a national title.
That's part of the reason it pained Schaefer to highlight why he thought his Mississippi State University women's basketball team lost to Hampton University 56-48 before a crowd of 1,233 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"I think you have to take your hat off to Hampton," Schaefer said. "They were well prepared. I thought they took the fight to us, especially at the guard position. I thought they really dictated what we were able to do offensively with their pressure. It was like looking at myself in the mirror all night long from the old days.
"Their pressure on our point guards took us out of everything we wanted to do offensively. We set the game back 20 years offensively tonight."
For a veteran coach who has earned the nickname "Secretary of Defense" for his ability to get his players to pull up their socks and dictate tempo and to meet pressure with pressure, it was especially disappointing to watch his team get outrebounded 44-29, to lose the hustle battle, and to commit 23 turnovers.
In many ways, little in the performance Monday resembled the effort MSU delivered Friday in a 72-66 victory against the University of Houston. On this night, Hampton (2-0) was quicker to the ball and more athletic on the perimeter despite the fact it was playing without senior starters Ariel Phelps and JoNiquia Gilford and junior point guard Lauren Johnson (torn anterior cruciate ligament).
"It is really hard for me because as I told my team, I have not had very many teams over the years that I walked into the locker room afterward and I thought we were outtoughed and outphysicaled," Schaefer said. "I thought they were more physical and more aggressive. It is hard for me to swallow, but I am the head coach and the buck stops here. We will just keep teaching toughness, and teaching in general."
With an evaluation like that, you might think MSU (1-1) was never in the game. Instead, the Bulldogs led by as three in the first half before going scoreless the final 4 minutes, 43 seconds and trailing 26-18 at halftime.
The Lady Pirates twice led by 12 points in the second half before the Bulldogs used a 10-0 run to get back in it. Defense fueled the run, as Darriel Gaynor (10 points, four steals) had a steal and converted it into a three-point play after getting fouled. She then scored off a drive from the left wing after the Bulldogs re-set the offense. Gaynor capped the spurt by taking a pass from Jerica James and hitting a 3-pointer with 4:56 to play that cut the deficit to 44-42.
But Hampton had every answer from that point.
Although Carnecia Williams took a charge to give MSU a chance to take the lead, MSU couldn't capitalize. Alyssa Bennett (14 points, seven rebounds, three steals) hit Hampton's only 3-pointer (1 of 6) from the right win to kick the lead to 47-42. Nicole Hamilton (14 points, five assists, four steals) added four free throws down the stretch, and Keiara Avant (game-highs of 19 points, 16 rebounds) also hit a hook shot in the lane to help push he Lady Pirates to a sweep of their tour of the state of Mississippi. Hampton defeated the University of Southern Mississippi 78-41 on Friday.
"I thought once we played with confidence we were able to answer," Hampton coach David Six said. "They play hard, we play hard. We wanted to answer their intensity. We saw them on film, and we know coach from Texas A&M and know his style and know he is a defensive-oriented type of coach, but so are we, so we knew it would be close and an in-your-face and ugly type of game."
Six felt his players "answered the bell" against a team trying to establish its identity. He acknowledged his team lost its poise during MSU's run in the second half, but he credited his players for regaining their focus down the stretch and taking and hitting big shots.
From Schaefer's perspective, Hampton's defense was even better.
"We didn't get many open looks most of the night, and it kind of got away from us from there (after cutting the deficit to two)," Schaefer said.
After getting game-highs of 23 points and 18 rebounds against Houston, sophomore Martha Alwal led MSU with 13 points and nine rebounds. But Hampton's ability to dictate tempo and limit MSU's ability to move to the wings or get its guards open on the wings took the post players out of the half-court sets.
Sophomore guard Kendra Grant had 11 points in 37 minutes after scoring 22 in the season opener, but she had a much tougher time getting open and creating a shot for herself or her teammates.
"They came out and beat us on the boards," Grant said. "They brought it to us and took it to us hard and made some runs on us, too."
Gaynor said the Bulldogs need to execute their offense better to give them more opportunities. MSU had 16 of its 23 turnovers in the first half and shot only 29.5 percent (13 of 44) from the field.
"They got us on our heels in the beginning penetrating to the basket, and we didn't play very good defense," Gaynor said. "They got a lot of offensive rebounds (21) and second-chances shots that we would have had. ... They played harder than us tonight, tougher than us, more aggressive."
Rest assured, Schaefer might be able to live with a team that is gaining experience, but he said in the preseason he isn't one who coaches desire and effort, so he expects the players "to answer the bell a little bit" to give it a better chance to affect the opponent.
"During that run, we were getting to the rim," Schaefer said. "Darriel got to the rim once or twice, and we just attacking the rim. ... But again, you're down 12 and I don't think anybody in the gym thought we were going to get back, and we got it back and had a chance to take the lead.
"You have to tip your hat to our kids a little bit for not quitting and hanging in there and competing. When we got back in it, we were getting to the rim and getting fouled and going to the line. These kids are learning how to compete. Tonight was certainly a lesson."
MSU will play host to Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Friday.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.