STARKVILLE -- You can almost sense Vic Schaefer cringe when he talks about his team's defense. If you look at the statistics, it would be difficult for you to tell there has been a drop-off in the Mississippi State's women's basketball team's play. The Bulldogs are still second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense at 56.1 points per game. But Schaefer, whose nickname is "the Secretary of Defense," knows better. He also admits he has sacrificed some defensive drill work in practice to work on offense, just as he hinted he might do a few weeks ago. While it might pain Schaefer's trained eyes to notice the lack of execution on the finer points, he acknowledges there has been a benefit. "The bottom line is you've got to score more points than the other team," Schaefer said Friday. "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." Schaefer hopes that work continues to pay dividends at 2 p.m. today when No. 11 MSU (20-4, 7-3 SEC) plays host to No. 21 Missouri (18-5, 5-5) at Humphrey Coliseum.
Tyrone Shorter sets the tone in every way for the Noxubee County High School football team. Whether it's his desire to keep the program's field house spotless or his edict that his players wear a buttoned-down shirt, a tie, and a blazer on Fridays during the season, Shorter wants his players to look and to act like one of the top programs in the state of Mississippi.
STARKVILLE -- Gavin Collins doesn't care where he plays. He just wants to play. Collins arrived in Starkville as a catcher in the fall of 2013 and became the Mississippi State baseball team's first All-Southeastern Conference freshman. But Collins injured his left hand prior to the 2015 season and had hamate bone surgery that forced him to miss 13 games.
Kyle Shaw was in a rut. A string of up-and-down performances had wrecked his confidence in NeSmith Late Model points races at Magnolia Motor Speedway. But on a Friday night during the Southern All-Star race early in 2015, Shaw found himself leading the race. His friend, Shay Knight, was running second before both were passed by Jason Cliburn on the final lap. Victory escaped Shaw that night, but he'd recaptured his mojo. He'd race at a high level for the rest of the 2015 season. Shaw was awarded the 2015 Magnolia Motor Speedway NeSmith Late Model points championship trophy and $1,150 in prize money Saturday during the track's annual championship banquet at the Trotter Convention Center.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Riley Norris made three 3-pointers and scored 18 points Saturday to help the Alabama men's basketball team beat Missouri 80-71. Arthur Edwards and Justin Coleman made back-to-back 3-pointers to give Alabama its largest lead of the game at 67-43 with 9 minutes, 28 seconds remaining.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Antonio Blakeney scored a career-high 31 points Saturday to help the LSU men's basketball team move into sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 88-77 victory against Mississippi State on Saturday night. Blakeney, a freshman whose previous single-game high was 22 points, hit 11 of 17 shots, including four 3-pointers. It was easily Blakeney's best outing against a team from a major conference and exactly what LSU (15-8, 8-2) expected when it recruited last season's Florida high school player of the year.
MADISON -- The Starkville High boys basketball team clinched the top seed in next week's Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 3 tournament with an 81-65 victory against Madison Central on Friday night. Starkville made it five wins in the last six tries against Madison Central in a rematch of last season's Class 6A state championship game. The contest was an easier victory than last month's 57-56 Starkville win at home.
New Hope High School senior Carlos Brooks liked the mind-set of his team Friday night. "We knew we had to be mentally tough to win this game," Brooks said. "The first time we played (Oxford). We simply weren't tough enough. We knew that would be the key to having a better outcome." The Trojans had a better attitude and a much better 3-point shooting touch in a 72-65 victory in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 boys basketball game at Trojan Gym.
WEST POINT -- Oak Hill Academy basketball coach Brian Middleton made a couple of suggestions at halftime Saturday night. Those suggestions included guarding harder, forcing some turnovers, and getting the transition game going. In the second half, the Raiders down their coach's wish list and knocked each item off with perfection. Oak Hill Academy erased a halftime deficit with a near-flawless effort on defense to post a 54-46 victory against Columbus Christian Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA, District 2 tournament championship game.
It's all coming together for Artavious McDyess. The 6-foot-7 senior has the frame and athleticism to dominate the paint, but the intensity, focus, and effort weren't always there earlier in the season. When Columbus High School boys basketball coach Luther Riley saw his forward receive a technical foul for aggressively dunking a ball and hanging on the rim at Forest Hill recently, he stopped himself from chastising McDyess. "He'd had the confidence all along," Riley said, "but you could see him start to apply it. You could see it then." McDyess' intensity showed Wednesday night in the Falcons' district matchup against Tupelo, where he was an impact on the offensive and defensive end, blocking and altering shots, scoring points and rebounding in a 75-60 win.
STARKVILLE -- Ben Howland didn't want Quinndary Weatherspoon to rebound on the offensive end when he first arrived on campus.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Alabama football team closed its signing class with a flourish, picking up two coveted linebackers to help complete another top-rated recruiting haul. Five-star linebackers, and in-state prospects, Ben Davis and Lyndell "Mack" Wilson made their announcements for the defending national champion Crimson Tide on Wednesday. It added a little suspense to the final product even if neither decision came as much of a surprise.
Resiliency is a word that suits Brenton Spann. After missing his senior season as a member of the New Hope High School football team, Spann could have given up and searched for a different path without the sport he loves. Instead, Spann tried his best to stay in shape and to focus on his academics in case he ever received an opportunity to return to the football field. He admits that road wasn't easy and that there were many times he doubted if he would realize his goal.
Wednesday was a beginning for Chris Deloach and the rest of the Columbus High School football program. A year ago, Randal Montgomery arrived from Hazlehurst High with championship designs for a program that wasn't accustomed to success. After three-straight trips to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A State title game and a championship in 2012, Montgomery realized hard work, buy-in, and dedication were going to be essential ingredients to the transformation of the Falcons' program.
MACON -- Jeffery Simmons didn't want to wait until the last minute. If he could have, the Noxubee County High School five-star defensive end would have made his college decision on the first day of the recruiting process to end it as quickly as possible. But Simmons soon found himself in a predicament of his own making because the schools he picked -- Alabama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss -- all had plenty to offer him, and even more fans who wanted him to join their football programs.
Tyshon Spencer always thought basketball was the sport for him. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Spencer had the size and the athleticism to pave a future for himself in the sport. But 6-4 student-athletes are easy for football coaches to spot in the hallways, especially at Class 1A schools, so it didn't take long for West Lowndes High School football coach Anthony King and other members of the coaching staff to ask Spencer to come out for the football team.
STARKVILLE -- Dan Mullen hasn't been known for being one of the top recruiters in the Southeastern Conference. The eighth-year Mississippi State coach's highest-rated class came last season when the Bulldogs pulled in the nation's 18th-best class, according to 247Sports. That class featured seven four-star prospects, many of whom will play vital roles this season.
STARKVILLE -- A.J. Brown and Kobe Jones are now rivals. In the last three years together as members of the Starkville High School football team, Brown and Jones helped the Yellow Jackets finish 13-1 and advance to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A North State title game in 2014 and win a MHSAA Class 6A State championship in 2015. They also were members of The Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen this past season.
STARKVILLE -- Ricky Woods was a proud coach Wednesday. The Starkville High School football coach saw 10 of his players sign National Letters of Intent on Wednesday on National Signing Day, including three with Division I schools and seven with junior colleges. Wide receiver A.J. Brown signed with Ole Miss, defensive tackle Kobe Jones signed with Mississippi State, and defensive lineman Lorenzo Dantzler signed with Southern Mississippi to complete the Division I trio. Defensive lineman Maleke Bell and running back Avery Brown (East Mississippi Community College), quarterback Montario Montgomery and wide receiver Rontavis Clark (Itawamba C.C.), tight end Parker Lemm (East Central C.C.), defensive back Terrance Grayer (Mississippi Delta C.C.), and defensive back Aretavious Hendrix (Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.) completed the signing class.
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Missouri men's basketball team made Stefan Moody work for his points Wednesday night. The Tigers didn't make the Ole Miss senior work hard enough. The prolific guard had 23 points and hit two free throws after getting fouled in the lane to put Ole Miss ahead by a point with 13.4 seconds left in a 76-73 victory.
1. MSU's Collins transitions from catcher to third base COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Tigers' Sunday best adds to special day LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Oak Hill Academy boys beat Columbus Christian for district title HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Columbus basketball teams sweep Tupelo HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Schaefer wants Bulldogs to maintain attacking mind-set COLLEGE SPORTS