Mississippi State senior point guard Morgan William pushes the tempo Friday against Virginia. William had four points, six rebounds, and eight assists in No. 7 MSU’s 68-53 victory against Virginia at Humphrey Coliseum. William and MSU will play host to Georgia State at 7 tonight. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
November 16, 2017 10:09:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Morgan William had one of the best stat lines Friday in the Mississippi State women's basketball team's season opener.
The senior guard had eight assists, six rebounds, and two steals in No. 7 MSU's 68-53 victory against Virginia at Humphrey Coliseum. William's work, which also featured zero turnovers, came in 29 minutes.
Even though those numbers were impressive, MSU coach Vic Schaefer wants more from William in the scoring department. The 5-foot-5 point guard had only four points on 1-for-4 shooting.
"I thought she had a good floor game," Schaefer said. "I would like to see her be a little more assertive offensively and penetrate and get into the heart of the zone and get out in transition a little more."
William will try to add a little more scoring to her final line at 7 tonight when MSU plays host to Georgia State (0-1) at Humphrey Coliseum.
"That is always a good stat line, no turnovers and the 'W', so I am proud of that," William said. "I didn't score the ball much, but I contributed in other areas, like rebounding and assists."
William said she tried to take what Virginia, which primarily played a 2-3 zone, gave her. She said she was focused on occupying two defenders to free up shooters. William was able to realize her goal by dribble penetrating and drawing a defender and then kicking a pass to the wing. She likely would have had a career high in assists, but the Bulldogs shot only 39.7 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers (16 assists).
"If I am not taking up two, I am not doing my job getting my teammates open, so I did my role," William said.
Schaefer said senior Blair Schaefer, his daughter, likely isn't going to have another game in which she goes 0-for-5 from the field. He said those misses and a 6-for-15 shooting performance by redshirt senior guard Roshunda Johnson could have helped William eclipse her career high in assists (11).
Still, senior Victoria Vivians, who led MSU with 22 points on 8-for-15 shooting, said William played well.
"I feel like she led the team defensively," Vivians said. "I feel like she was hooked up defensively. It carries us behind her to play good defense. She controlled the whole game when it was time to control it."
Schaefer said Bulldogs also had too many turnovers, which is something they will have to "cut in half" prior to the start of Southeastern Conference play.
William knows most of the responsibility for helping MSU do that will fall to her. Last season, William averaged a career-high 10.9 points per game and had a career-best 181 assists (78 turnovers). She also improved her shooting percentage from 32.1 percent as a sophomore to 46.3 percent in 28.6 minutes per game.
William raised her level in MSU's run to the national title game. She had a career-high 41 points in a victory against Baylor in the Elite Eight to help punch MSU's ticket to its first Final Four. She then hit the game-winning shot in overtime to eliminate four-time reigning national champion Connecticut in the national semifinals.
Those accomplishments played a role in William earning honorable mention preseason All-America honors and first-team preseason All-SEC honors. She and Vivians also were named to the Wooden Award's Top 30 Watch List. The honor goes to the nation's top player.
While it is nice to be recognized, William knows she has to be consistent every day on the court and how she leads the team with her words and with her body language. William feels she has grown in those areas each year.
"I know freshman year when I would get in the huddle I didn't say a word," William said. "As the years go on, I get in the huddle and make sure everybody knows who they have and make sure everybody knows who they have in the press. ... I try to make sure everybody in the huddle is listening. I have to take pride in huddles."
But playing point guard for Schaefer has a higher level of accountability, which is why he would like William to do more in practice, before practice, in stretching, and out of class.
"It is holding her teammates accountable to being a pro," Schaefer said. "From the time you walk out of the locker room, what are you doing? Are you coming out and sitting in a chair and waiting until coach walks out for practice to start, or are you coming out and getting on the floor and getting some extra shots? Does it take me walking in the gym to get that kid out of the chair, or can you do it as the senior?
"It is your team. It is your senior year. How about stepping up and saying, 'Hey, come down here and shoot with me.' Those are little things all four of my seniors should do. It is not reserved just for Morgan. I think she will tell you that is where she is uncomfortable."
Vivians plays new role
Vivians started the season with a strong all-around performance in 37 minutes. She did some of her work playing power forward, or the four position. The decision to use Vivians, who is 6-1, at power forward worked well with a starting lineup of William, Schaefer, Johnson, and Teaira McCowan. MSU overcame a first-half deficit to edge Virginia in rebounding 35-34. Vivians had seven of those rebounds. She said MSU's coaches have stressed the importance of rebounding to her if she is going to play that position.
"(Playing the four) was a big difference on the defensive end because I am usually guarding guards who run a lot," Vivians said. "Starting off, I had to guard a big, and she just stayed in the post, so it was kind of easier."
Vivians joked Wednesday with coach Schaefer, who was sitting to her left, that she "liked" that. Offensively, she said it was easier for her to use her quickness to beat bigger players to the basket.
Newcomer Chloe Bibby had 13 points in 29 minutes. The 6-1 forward from Australia also saw time at the four, which enabled Vivians to move back to the small forward, or three, and to play guard.
Better production from the post
The presence of 6-9 sophomore center Felicia Aiyeotan had something to do with McCowan and Ameshya Williams combining to score only 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting from the field.
Aiyeotan blocked four shots and affected several others in 29 minutes. But Schaefer would like to see more from McCowan, a 6-7 junior, and Williams, a 6-2 sophomore.
"We want to work inside-out," Schaefer said. "I thought we forced some shots. I thought we took some soft shots instead of attacking the rim. I thought we just settled for jumpers. I think both of those kids understand that and they know they have to do it differently. If we played them again tomorrow, there would be a different attack mode down there from the one we showed down there the first time.
"Our inside players also have to do their work before the ball comes around to them. You get both feet in the lane. You give the passer your numbers. It takes work to do. You don't just stand there like a totem poll and then hope they throw it to you."
Schaefer said all signs point to junior transfer Jordan Danberry being academically eligible and ready to play for MSU against Little Rock on Dec. 10. Schaefer said in the preseason the Bulldogs were examining activating Danberry, a transfer from Arkansas, for this season. A season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury to sophomore Jacaira "Iggy" Allen created a situation where MSU needed someone to step in and fill those minutes. ... Schaefer said nothing is wrong with freshman point guard Myah Taylor, who didn't play Friday. "Myah Taylor is going to be an All-American before she leaves here. There is no doubt in my mind," Schaefer said. "She is a heck of a player. She is working hard every day in practice just like Nyah (Tate) and Bre'Amber (Scott) are." ... The game will be streamed live online on SEC Network+. It can be heard on WLZA-FM 96.1 and www.hailstate.com/plus. ... It will be 70s Night at the Hump. ... Tickets for all MSU home games are $5 for adults and $3 for youth age 18 and under. Children age 12 and under can get free admission to every women's game by joining Bully's Kids Club at www.bullyskidsclub.com. ... Georgia State lost to Florida 82-66 on Saturday in Gainesville, Florida. Jada Lewis, the Sun Belt Conference's Freshman of the Year last season, had 20 points, while Shay Fluker (15) and Madison Newby (11) also scored in double figures. ... Georgia State, which went 12-18 last season, was picked eighth in the Sun Belt Conference preseason poll.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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