Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer shares a hug with sophomore guard Jazzmun Holmes (10) after the Bulldogs clinched a return trip to the Sweet 16 Sunday. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
March 19, 2017 11:37:51 PM
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer had to leave his court-side seat Friday afternoon because he wasn't feeling well.
Watching a possible opponent like the DePaul women's basketball team execute on offense can make any coach sick to his stomach.
But Schaefer and Mississippi State are becoming more adept at making their opponents feel ill, too, especially when they have to consider all of the options they need to try to stop.
Those weapons were on display early and often Sunday afternoon, as Blair Schaefer tied for game-high scoring honors with 18 points and Jazzmun Holmes had a career-high 14 to lead second-seeded MSU to a 92-71 victory against seventh-seeded DePaul before a crowd of 6,035 in the second round of the NCAA tournament at Humphrey Coliseum.
Victoria Vivians, Breanna Richardson, and Chinwe Okorie had 12 points, and Dominique Dillingham added 10 to help MSU (31-4) advance to the Sweet 16 for the second-straight season, and third overall.
MSU will play the winner of tonight's game between third-seeded Washington and sixth-seeded Oklahoma at a time to be determined Friday in Oklahoma City.
"Coming out in the third quarter, I was really proud of how we responded immediately out of the gate," Schaefer said. "I thought we executed. Obviously offensively was really good. The inside game was really good."
MSU outscored DePaul (27-8) 23-13 in the third quarter. The 54 points the Bulldogs scored in the second half matched their output in the final 20 minutes Friday in a 110-69 victory against 15th-seeded Troy. The 54 points in a half is the Bulldogs' second-highest total this season (60 vs. Northwestern State).
Against DePaul, MSU went 9-for-16 from the field (56.3 percent) in the third quarter. Richardson had seven points and Schaefer added six more as five players scored in the period.
"Coach came in at halftime and basically said we're going to test them out," Richardson said. "He was like we were going to see where their legs were because we had been pressing them, so he wanted to see execution and pushing the floor. When we came out, we executed real well because we were knocking down shots and attacking the rim. It got us going and broke the lead out a little more, and got us more comfortable."
Richardson's three-point play off an offensive rebound putback opened the quarter. She added two strong drives to the basket to accentuate the focus and determination the Bulldogs brought to the court coming out of halftime.
"I feel like with us it takes two or three shots to go in and everybody gets hyped," Richardson said. "We get into it with the crowd and then it just gets us going."
Schaefer added two big 3-pointers off passes from McCowan. The 6-foot-7 sophomore center recognized double- and triple-teams quickly all day and kicked the ball back out to open shooters. Most of the time, the Bulldogs responded by winning the HORSE game.
"I felt like we came out and executed in the third quarter," said Schaefer, who was 6-for-12 from the field (4-for-8 from 3-point range) in her second-straight start. "We really talked about it at halftime that we needed to instill our will. We did it the first half, but we felt like we had so much more we could still put out there and show people. We came out and we really executed offensively and defensively."
MSU hit five shots in a row and scored on six-straight possessions during a 16-2 run to take a 61-43 advantage.
DePaul scored the final seven points of the quarter to cut the deficit to 61-50 entering the final 10 minutes. But MSU regained the momentum thanks to sophomore point guard Jazzmun Holmes, who played a season-high 25 minutes and handed out six assists and committed only one turnover.
"I just felt like we had to go inside," Holmes said. "It was kind of a mismatch for Chinwe and our opponent. Like I said, it was a mismatch and it was easy for us to go inside and they could finish over the smaller person that was on them."
MSU, which had a 52-28 edge in points in the paint, scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and led by as many as 15 points the rest of the way.
"If you quick shoot and make it, you're going to be in a ballgame," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "If you quick shoot and miss, you must defend and rebound. If you quick shoot and miss and don't defend and rebound, you're putting together a recipe for disaster.
"In the third quarter, we shot it quick. We had some good shots, shots that we take and make, and we missed them. Simultaneously, we were not able to defensively stop Mississippi State, which is where the lead got away from us. That is basically the game in a nutshell."
Bruno credited MSU because he said the Bulldogs helped the Blue Demons miss some of those shots.
"The defense this team plays really made it very difficult for us to get any real consistent offensive rhythm," Bruno said.
Senior guard Jessica January led DePaul (27-8) with 18 points. She also had four rebounds and a team-high nine rebounds. Classmate Brooke Schulte, the Big East Conference Player of the Year closed her career with 16 points and seven rebounds. Tanita Allen (13 points) rounded out the team's double-figure scorers.
"Mississippi State came out of the locker room ready to play and we had a little bit of a lapse," Schulte said. "Like coach said, we shoot quick, and a couple of them didn't fall, so it didn't go in our favor with our offense. We kind of dug ourselves a hole."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.