Mississippi State senior guard Victoria Vivians had a team-high 30 points Sunday in the No. 6 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 79-76 victory against Oklahoma State at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
December 4, 2017 10:36:51 AM
STARKVILLE -- The No. 6 Mississippi State women's basketball team is showing its age.
With four seniors and a junior in the backcourt, MSU coach Vic Schaefer might have the deepest group of guards in the nation.
Through eight games, MSU's guards are putting their experience to work in a variety of ways. On Sunday, Victoria Vivians poured in a season-high 30 points to help No. 6 MSU outlast Oklahoma State 79-76 before a crowd of 5,138 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge at Humphrey Coliseum.
"I knew if they if they would have had a four player on me that she wasn't going to be able guard me off the bounce," Vivians said. "The whole time at practice I was in attack mode, so I felt like I had to come into the game in attack mode."
Roshunda Johnson added 18 points and Morgan William had a season-high 15 to help MSU improve to 8-0.
Vivians continued her hot start to the season by going 11-for-20 from the field. It marked the fifth game she has shot 50 percent or better from the field. She also grabbed eight rebounds, handed out two assists, and made three steals in 37 minutes.
"I thought Torri was really good," Schaefer said. "She was 7 out of 7 at the (free-throw) line. ... She was really, really special today. She kind of carried us through a stretch there in the second half."
Vivians is shooting a career-best 51.9 percent from the field and a career-best 84.2 percent from the free-throw line. Those are numbers to build on, especially after the Bulldogs finished first in the nation in made free throws (519) and fourth in the country in free throws attempted (813) last season.
Johnson also was 7-for-7 from the free-throw line on a day when MSU was 26-for-34 (76.5 percent) from the stripe. It was the Bulldogs' second-best effort from the free-throw line this season. MSU is 253rd in the nation in free throw percentage (65.3 percent) after shooting 73.1 percent (81st in the nation) last season.
A defining moment came in the third quarter when Vivians seized control. She hit a jump shot to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 48-45. Vivians then converted a three-point play to extend MSU's lead to 51-47. Earlier in her career, Vivians might have taken a shot off the initial pass back to the 3-point line. Instead, she took her time, read the defense, attacked, and absorbed the contact to finish.
Vivians followed with two more free throws at the 5-minute, 5-second mark to give MSU a 53-47 lead.
"If she keeps shooting 55 percent from the field, we're going to have a chance to win a lot of games," Schaefer said. "A lot of it has to do with her shot selection, not settling."
With the loss of sophomore forward Ameshya Williams, Vivians has moved to the power forward position, or four, in MSU's four-guard lineup and has flourished in a role where she often is paired against a taller defender.
Oklahoma State led 29-28 in the second quarter before a free throw by Teaira McCowan (seven points, 11 rebounds) tied the game and a jump shot by William gave the Bulldogs the lead for good. The scored was tied three more times after that, but MSU always had control, even if it wasn't easy.
Oklahoma State (6-2), which lost to then-No. 12 Tennessee 79-69 on Nov. 24, outshot MSU from the field (44.6 percent to 43.1), outrebounded MSU (39-35), had more assists (eight to five), more points in the paint (36-32), more second-chance points (eight to four), more fat-break points (16-6), and more bench points (11-4), but the Bulldogs had a 21-6 edge in points off turnovers that proved to be the difference.
Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said 10 of his team's 16 turnovers in the second half played a pivotal role.
"I like the fight in our kids," Littell said. "We got down 11 at one point and continued to fight. We didn't guard off the dribble very well. Vivians is a real tough matchup for us. ... The difference is they went to the free-throw line 34 times and we have to do a better job of guarding off the dribble."
Loryn Goodwin had a game-high 35 points and matched teammate Mandy Coleman with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Goodwin, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, gave MSU fits by pushing the tempo and using her size and quickness to create shots off the dribble. She, too, was in attack mode from the outset and was 13-for-29 from the field and had three assists and four steals (six turnovers). She hit two 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds to help erase a 12-point deficit and create some drama at the end.
"I think we proved a lot to ourselves," Goodwin said. "We went against Tennessee and kind of got down in the first quarter by I think 15, or something like that, but tonight we fought back every time. ... We still have a lot of things to get better at, but we're getting better."
Schaefer credited his team's toughness for playing a key role in the result. When asked if the Bulldogs can continue to win games with six players logging a majority of the minutes, he said, "I don't think we can do it throughout the course of the season, especially the way we play. We're doing it right now. I think that speaks to the guts of these kids."
Jazzmun Holmes had four points in 16 minutes off the bench. Reserves Zion Campbell (nine minutes), Chloe Bibby (seven), and Jonika Garvin were scoreless.
Schaefer said MSU expects to receive a boost from Jordan Danberry, who is expected to join the active roster at 2 p.m. Sunday when MSU plays host to Little Rock at Humphrey Coliseum. The 5-8 redshirt guard figures to bolster an already deep and experienced backcourt.
When asked if the remaining active players have the same desire to play as many minutes as possible, Schaefer said, "You'll have to ask them."
Vivians showed the maturity of a senior when asked what she and her classmates could do to convey the sense of urgency's in Schaefer's voice to get the other Bulldogs to embrace the team's style of play all of the time.
"If they see us going hard in practice, they will want to go as hard as we do," Vivians said. "Us being leaders and being an example for them, they should know what to do."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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