January 25, 2014 11:14:30 PM
Repetition is the word for the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
Coming off an 87-85 overtime loss to Ole Miss on Thursday in which coach Vic Schaefer blamed himself for not getting his team home down the stretch, the Bulldogs spent the past two days working on execution in late-game situations. MSU re-visited the play calls from the huddle at the end of regulation and at the end of overtime that gave the Bulldogs a chance to beat the Rebels but didn't work. Schaefer then had his players watch those situations on film before they took the court for practice in an attempt to understand exactly how to get the best possible shot.
"We really rushed both shots," Schaefer said. "(In regulation), Martha (Alwal) took a running 11-footer. (In overtime), we got into our offense way too early for a last shot."
Like he did after the Ole Miss game, Schaefer reiterated he has to do a better job coaching and teaching precisely how MSU needs to execute so it can have success. At 2 p.m. today (SportSouth), MSU's ability to execute on defense -- namely guard the 3-point arc -- will play a large part in its success against Missouri (13-6, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) at Humphrey Coliseum.
A year ago, MSU had one of its best victories of the season in a 61-56 decision in Columbia, Mo. The Bulldogs limited the Tigers, who were 11 of 24 from 3-point land in a victory against Tennessee, to a 3-of-20 showing from 3-point range. Those performances were part of Missouri's SEC-leading 263 made 3-pointers and league-most 781 attempted 3-pointers (33.7 percent, fourth in SEC).
This season, Missouri is third in the league in 3-point shooting percentage (38.9) but it is far and away the leader in made treys (189) and attempted treys (486). Arkansas is second with 121 3-pointers. Ole Miss is second with 345 attempts.
"They want to shoot the three," Schaefer said. "They are making 9.9 a game. ... It is a little different way you have to guard somebody, and it is hard to get ready for it in two days, but our kids have practiced well and I am anxious to see us carry out a good defensive game plan."
Bri Kulas is second in the SEC in scoring at 19.1 points per game. She is one of five Tigers who have made double-digit 3-pointers (36) this season. Morgan Eye, who set a record for 3-pointers in a season last year against MSU, leads the team with 64. Morgan Stock (39), Lianna Doty (12), and Maddie Stock (24) also will be able to stretch MSU's defense.
Missouri comes into the game averaging 73.5 ppg., which is eighth in the league. MSU is sixth in the SEC in scoring (75.4 ppg.).
"We have been fairly good offensively, or good enough to win," Schaefer said. "Defense has certainly been an issue in conference. We had one good one in Arkansas and after that it has been a little bit of a struggle."
Schaefer expected defense to be an issue with such a young team. With three freshmen and one junior college transfer playing significant minutes, MSU has had to learn Schaefer's system and the intensity he wants them to play with on defense on the fly. Still, he said the Bulldogs have to play smarter and not get into foul trouble and have to be disciplined and not go for shot fakes that take them out of plays and give the opposition easy shots.
Schaefer knows Missouri will make his team pay if it falls into familiar habits.
"It compares so much to what we were doing in our second year at (Texas) A&M," said Schaefer, the former associate head coach under Gary Blair in College Station, Texas. "That second year we were awful. I don't think we have been awful, but it has been a problem associated with youth, inexperience, and immaturity."
Schaefer saw those same issues plague his team Thursday night against Ole Miss. He said the Bulldogs struggled to contain senior point guard Valencia McFarland (27 points) off the dribble and the athleticism of forward Tia Faleru. McFarland and Faleru combined for 56 points and worked a high screen and roll for results against a player-to-player and zone defense repeatedly in the second half.
MSU (14-6, 1-5) will see the same kind of repetition today against a team that is shooting only a little better from the field (42.2 percent compared to 41.3 for MSU). Those numbers might be deceiving, though, because Kulas has nearly matched her 3-point total (40) of last season and Eye is more than halfway to her total of last season (112).
Whether it is transition defense, rebounding, execution in late-game situations, or guarding the 3-point line, Schaefer insists the repetition will continue until MSU can execute with optimum efficiency.
"That is what you do as a teacher and as a coach, you teach with repetition until it is a learned response," Schaefer said. "That is the bottom line. We have a rebounding issue. We have to continue every day, as we have the last three weeks, to say, 'Put a butt in somebody's gut and block out.' Absolutely we are seeing progress."
WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3 in Tupelo will broadcast the game live. HailStateTV subscribers can access the live audio stream at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive.
The matchup is MSU's "We Back Pat" game, and the Bulldogs will wear special warmup shirts in support of the Pat Summitt Foundation's fight against Alzheimer's.
Tickets for the game are $5 for adults and free to youth high school age and under. Families can enjoy games, inflatables, and more in Bully's Kidz Kourt starting at 1 p.m. in Mize Pavilion.
Fans can also sign-up for Maroon Memories prior to the game by going to hailstate.com/memories. The available memories include the opportunity to stand on court with the Bulldogs for the National Anthem, the chance to participate in the Cadence This or That Challenge, or have a personal visit from Bully.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.