Mississippi State senior point guard Morgan William (2) eyes her Little Rock counterpart Sunday in their game at Humphrey Coliseum. William had a season-high 16 points to lead No. 6 MSU to an 86-48 victory. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
December 11, 2017 10:33:14 AM
STARKVILLE -- Nothing Morgan William does surprises Vic Schaefer.
Tasked with running the Mississippi State women's basketball program, William has responded with quiet confidence in her first three seasons. No job has been too big for the 5-foot-5 standout from Birmingham, Alabama. Whether it has been pressuring the ball, finding her teammates for open shots, or scoring a career-high 41 points in a giant effort against Baylor in the Elite Eight, William has done it all without calling attention to herself and leading by example.
Just when you thought William couldn't raise her game to another level, William hit the game-winning shot in overtime to vanquish four-time national champion Connecticut in the 2017 national semifinals.
On Friday, William completed another All-America effort when she walked with former women's basketball teammate Ketara Chapel in MSU's commencement ceremony. Getting a college degree in four or five years is an accomplishment. Realizing that goal in three-and-a-half years with a 3.2 grade-point average while playing point guard for a nationally ranked program is another level of excellence.
True to her nature, William didn't boast about her achievement Sunday following No. 6 MSU's 86-48 victory against Little Rock before a crowd of 5,010 at Humphrey Coliseum.
William also didn't brag about her season-high 16 points that led four players in double figures and helped MSU (9-0) win its 31st-straight regular-season, non-conference game and its 30th-straight non-conference home game. With a bouquet of flowers given to her after the game by two fans she has known for the last two years, William addressed her latest performance with poise and in her typical understated nature.
"This week we talked about me being more offensive," said William, who was recognized with special videos on the scoreboard on her Senior Day. "Coach Schaefer was like, 'No one should be able to not guard you, Mo,' so I just have been trying to score when I am open."
William attempted a season-high 11 shots in a 79-76 victory against Oklahoma State. She followed that by going 5-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line to post her season-best point total. She created many of her opportunities off penetration or moves into the gaps of the defense. Her quickness creates dangerous situations for defenses because she can beat defenders and draw help-side defense and then lay the ball off to open teammates for easy shots.
A more aggressive William also will make it harder for defenses that try to back off her and dare her to take perimeter shots. Schaefer feels William and backup point guard Jazzmun Holmes are capable of having big nights if opponents opt for that strategy.
"I believe the first couple of games I was just content on passing the ball because they were knocking down shots," William said of her teammates. "Teams stopped guarding me, so I need to look for my shots and stop being a passer. I have to do both."
The double-digit scoring effort was William's third in the last four games. She scored in double figures in only one of MSU's first five games. In fact, she was scoreless in one of those games. But William contributed by finding her teammates and protecting the basketball. In the first three games, she had 24 assists and zero turnovers in 71 minutes. Against Little Rock, she added four assists and one turnover to give her 47 assists and nine turnovers on the season.
William earned her degree in kinesiology. She said it was a "great feeling" to realize the goal. She was equally proud of the fact she didn't trip or fall in the high heels she wore. William smiled when asked the size of the heels and said they weren't "grandma heels." She said she hopes to use her degree to work with her brother, Jaylon Rory, in a sports facility they have plans for in Birmingham, Alabama.
"I am really proud of her," Schaefer said. "My staff does a great job as well as Miguel (Negron), our academic liaison. We have so much support here at Mississippi State in that area. Jordan (Danberry) had a 4.0 this semester. I think Myah Taylor is going to have a 4.0 this semester.
"For Morgan, I know there were a lot of proud folks when she walked. To do it in three-and-a-half years, the average student doesn't do it in four. She is going to get to start on her master's (degree). It is hard. ... That is the level of excellence she holds herself to. That is the level of excellence we try to hold these young ladies to."
Teaira McCowan (13 points, 11 rebounds in 16 minutes) and Victoria Vivians (12 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles. It was Vivians' first of the season. Blair Schaefer added 10 points, while Chloe Bibby added nine points and six rebounds off the bench. Redshirt sophomore transfer Danberry had two points in 13 minutes in her first action as a Bulldog. Her play in the final seven-plus minutes of the third quarter was instrumental in pressuring the Trojans and limiting them to 1-for-14 shooting in the period.
"I really liked our response coming out of the locker room (at halftime)," Schaefer said. "We responded. We played really well in the third quarter. Little Rock is really good. I am excited about our response today."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsporteditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.