January 24, 2013 11:56:10 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer's blueprint was in full effect.
Gary Blair has the utmost confidence Schaefer will be able to implement that plan for the Mississippi State University women's basketball program. Schaefer's challenge is to get the same kind of players he saw in Texas A&M University uniforms Thursday night to become Bulldogs.
Judging from the performance of the Aggies, there's little doubt the philosophy can be effective.
Kristi Bellock scored a career-high 18 points, and Adrienne Pratcher added 15 points to lead No. 16 Texas A&M to an 81-33 victory against MSU before a crowd of 1,313 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Kelsey Bone added 13 points and five assists for Texas A&M (15-5, 5-1 Southeastern Conference), which shot a season-best 60.4 percent (29 of 48) from the field en route to its third-straight victory.
"That is the blueprint. You just looked at it," said Schaefer, who spent 15 years as an assistant and an associate head coach for Blair at the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M. "Those kids play hard, they play well together, they have great chemistry, they can create. I am pretty sure that is why (MSU Director of Athletics) Scott (Stricklin) hired us. That is the blueprint, and that is the only way I know how to do it. We have to continue to work with these young ladies and teach them a level of expectation and how hard we want to play, but, as you can see, we have to get some help as well. We have signed those five young ladies coming in, and I am excited about them as well."
Martha Alwal (12 points, 10 rebounds) had her ninth double-double of the season to lead MSU (8-11, 0-6). Jerica James (10 points) was the only other player in double figures for the Bulldogs, who committed 23 turnovers and shot 26.7 percent (12 of 45) from the field. That total is their second worst percentage of the season. The 33 points tied for the fourth-lowest single-game point total in school history. The 48-point margin of victory was the second-worst home loss in school history. Auburn defeated MSU 82-32 on Jan. 11, 1986.
"They are very talented at every position," MSU sophomore guard Kendra Grant said. "I feel we have the same potential. We just have to lock into it."
As well as Texas A&M played on the defensive end, many of MSU's 23 turnovers were unforced. Grant said the Bulldogs need calm down and not get too antsy when they try to make an entry pass or execute their half-court sets.
Schaefer said the Bulldogs had a lot of good looks at the basket but couldn't get the ball into scoring positions. But he credited Texas A&M, which lost to the University of Louisville, Penn State University, and the University of Connecticut to open the season. Texas A&M nearly won at defending SEC regular-season champion University of Kentucky, a game Schaefer feels the Aggies should have won.
On Thursday, Texas A&M didn't waste any time taking control. The Aggies built a 21-10 lead midway through the first half and pushed it to 39-19 at halftime. Texas A&M used a 15-0 run to start the second half to erase any doubt. The lead grew to as many as 55 (79-24) on a jumper by Bone with 3 minutes, 29 seconds remaining. MSU scored the next nine points to avoid making history.
"They are so underrated it is not even funny," Schaefer said. "They are so good. They should be in the top five or six in the country. They are just doing a great job with that group. They are hard to handle. They have size, they have quickness, they have a confident point guard (Pratcher) that has waited her time and who is playing with so much confidence. They have a four player (Bellock) who has waited her time and is playing with so much confidence.
"They have maybe the best post player in the country in Bone, who is a fourth-year player. That is 12 years of experience at three positions that is really playing well for them. Coach is doing a fabulous job with that group. It is maybe his best coaching job I have seen him do in a long time."
Blair credited MSU for running its offense very well in the first 10 minutes. He also believes Schaefer will be able to recruit the same kind of players he helped bring to Texas A&M to MSU.
"You all need to be patient," Blair said. "This team is very similar to my first year at Texas A&M. ... You have to take baby steps. You'll struggle a while, but then you'll do great."
Blair said Wednesday he thinks it will take Schaefer three to five years to establish a foundation at MSU. He and Schaefer went 9-19 and 16-15 in their first two seasons at Texas A&M. The Aggies have won at least 23 games every year since then, including a 33-5 finish in their national championship season in 2010-11.
Schaefer and his coaches will do everything they can to duplicate that process. He said MSU has to shake off its latest disappointment and regroup because it will play host to the University of Mississippi at 2 p.m. Sunday. Ole Miss defeated the University of Florida 88-81 on Thursday night to earn its first SEC victory of the season.
"It was hard tonight," Schaefer said. "It was hard at Kentucky last Thursday night (a 100-47 loss). It is very difficult, and they're playing. The coaches know it is a process. We're fine. My heart goes out to my kids sometimes because I know they are playing awfully hard and trying awfully hard and the reward isn't there right now for them."
NOTE: Sophomore guard/forward Shamia Robinson, a former standout at West Oktibbeha County High School, wasn't on the bench Thursday night. Schaefer said Robinson has been suspended indefinitely. Robinson has played in eight games (one start) and is averaging 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.