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Schaefer continues to stress improvement


Adam Minichino



STARKVILLE --┬áThe film doesn't lie. 


With as many teaching points as Vic Schaefer and his coaches are trying to emphasize this season, the first-year Mississippi State University women's basketball coach is glad to have tangible evidence he can use to prove his points. 


Unfortunately, Schaefer and the Bulldogs had to go to the videotape quite often to review areas to address following their last game, a 61-59 loss to the University of Southern Mississippi on Saturday in Hattiesburg. 


MSU led by 13 points with 14 minutes, 39 seconds to go in the game only to allow USM to creep back into the game and then hit a last-second shot to win. 


Whether it's turnovers, points in the paint, rebounding, or a host of other issues, Schaefer said the videotape is particularly helpful when it comes to highlighting the type of effort he feels MSU needs to be more successful. 


"Playing hard covers up a lot of deficiencies," Schaefer said. "You're not going to be able to shoot the ball great every night, but if you will defend and rebound and bring your inside game with you when you go on the road, you have a chance to win." 


MSU (3-5) will try to raise its level to Schaefer's liking at 7 tonight when it plays host to Florida Atlantic University (5-2) at Humphrey Coliseum. The game is the first of a five-game homestand that will close out 2012 and set the stage for MSU's Southeastern Conference opener at Vanderbilt University on Jan. 3, 2013. 


Schaefer, a longtime assistant/associate head coach at the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University, knew inexperience and a lack of depth would impact the program in his first season. He has stressed greater defensive intensity and has held the players accountable in his first eight-plus months on the job. The reality is he and his coaches have had less than two months to be on the court working with the players to implement his philosophy. As a result, Schaefer has reiterated he feels the building process for his program will take time as his players develop more experience and confidence.  


But this week Schaefer went back to the videotape to point out several things he feels can't happen even with an inexperienced team. He said MSU allowed USM to score 32 points on layups and didn't do a good enough job rebounding. The Golden Eagles capitalized by grabbing 21 offensive rebounds, outscoring the Bulldogs 40-18 in the paint, and building a 16-2 edge in fast-break points. 


"My frustration at times comes with our knowledge of the game and our not playing hard, and they think they are," Schaefer said. "Then they go see the film and they realize I am jogging or I am walking out here on offense." 


Schaefer said he doesn't want to coach his players' heart and that he wants to coach their minds. He said defensive intensity and defensive chemistry typically are the last things to come together, and he acknowledges he has seen improvements in those areas. The sticking point is his players are having to learn -- or re-learn -- what it means to play hard. 


"It is just getting back in the fire and understanding that if they thought they played hard in high school, this is a whole different animal, and I have to go twice as hard so I can compete," Schaefer said. "They need experience right now, they need to watch film every day, and they need to practice against our guys (men's practice player) to give them a better understanding of how hard you have to play and the little things (like boxing out) you're talking about. If you don't block these guys out rebounding, they're going to be over your head rebounding and dunking (in practice). You have to put a body on them. No, you can't jump as high as them, but, you know what, you probably can't jump as high as a lot of people in our league right now, so we have to do the fundamental and little things. We have to put a butt in the gut." 


Schaefer breaks down many of the concepts in drills or small-sided games in practice. He said the next step is carrying those principles into the game.  


Senior Darriel Gaynor said MSU is working hard to develop the consistency it needs to play at the level Schaefer wants. She said the Bulldogs continue to be their worst enemy, as evidenced by the fact they are last in the league in scoring (58 points per game), 13th in field goal percentage (35 percent), and last in turnover margin. MSU also has been outrebounded five times and has one game in which it has an even or a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. 


Gaynor said USM game drove those points home in an all-too-familiar way because she felt MSU hurt itself with too many unforced errors. 


"We did it to ourselves again," Gaynor said. "We were up 12 or 14 points and we kind of slacked off or started making mistakes. Not to take credit away from them, but we didn't play our game and we lost focus." 


Gaynor, the only senior on the team, is shooting 33.5 percent from the field and averaging 6.9 points a game. She accepted some of the blame for USM's 16 layups because she didn't do a good enough job getting back on defense. Doing better at a "job" like that will become more important in the next five games because Gaynor knows SEC teams will make MSU pay for those mistakes. She hopes she can set a better example to help the Bulldogs keep their focus so they can play with more consistency and effectiveness. 


"I just have to make sure I am a factor out there, not just out there running around," Gaynor said.


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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