Mississippi State junior center Teaira McCowan makes a post move against Little Rock in an 86-48 victory on Sunday at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff Buy this photo.
December 12, 2017 10:32:13 AM
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer has made it clear he doesn't need a loss to get his attention.
The Mississippi State women's basketball coach is equally transparent when it comes to the expectations he has for his team's defense. Every game, Schaefer routinely barks out instructions for his players -- usually his guards -- to get up closer to their players and to apply ball pressure. The commands are designed to help the Bulldogs set the tone on defense and make life miserable for their opponents.
Little Rock encountered 10 minutes of misery Sunday afternoon in Humphrey Coliseum.
Buoyed by the ball-hawking of transfer Jordan Danberry in her MSU debut, the Bulldogs limited the Trojans to 1-for-14 shooting in the third quarter. MSU parlayed that defensive energy to a 25-2 period that is used to pull away for an 86-48 victory.
The defensive effort marked the seventh time this season MSU held an opponent to less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
No. 5 MSU will look to build on that performance at 6 p.m. Wednesday (SEC Network) when it plays host to No. 9 Oregon in what should be a great test for its defense.
"We're really excited to have her," Schaefer said of Danberry. "She was a little bit of a bull in a china cabinet today because she was so excited to be out there. She made that great play on the steal and then she thought she was going to go dunk on all four of these people and she didn't do that and it resulted in the only turnover she had. She is really going to help us."
The effort in the third quarter against Little Rock came after Schaefer pointed out to his players he wasn't pleased with their lack of communication, inability to make the proper defensive switches, their committing too many fouls, their inability to get into the press, and giving up too many points in the paint. That's why Schaefer tried to tap into his players' heart and intensity with his halftime talk. He said he was pleased with the way the Bulldogs responded.
"That's how you're supposed to play," Schaefer said. "That's a good basketball team. They beat Oklahoma by double digits. They're young at spots. I thought we took them out of a lot of stuff in the third quarter."
Danberry played a key role in that showing, even though the Trojans missed plenty of shots they probably thought they should have made. The two-time Gatorade Player of the Year from Conway (Ark.) High School, who started her career at Arkansas, had a bounce in her step as she harassed ballhandlers. At 5-foot-8, Danberry's length and quickness allows her to shut down big guards -- Kentucky's Makayla Epps and Oklahoma State's Loryn Goodwin come to mind -- who typically have given MSU trouble.
Danberry only had two points and one steal in 13 minutes, but she impacted the game by helping the Bulldogs get into the passing lanes and to switch on defense to make it harder for the Trojans to get to where they wanted to go.
"We were talking more on defense," Danberry said. "That is why we were able to get more stops."
With Morgan William, Jazzmun Holmes, Blair Schaefer, and Roshunda Johnson in the backcourt, MSU figures to have the luxury to rotate players in so they can stay fresh and keep up the pressure on the ball. That should prove doubly effective if Schaefer opts to continue press teams 94 feet. The only downside is junior center Teaira McCowan and redshirt sophomore Zion Campbell will have to stay out of foul trouble to make that defense work.
The play of freshman forward Chloe Bibby against Little Rock offered another encouraging sign for Schaefer. Bibby had nine points and six rebounds in 16 minutes. She has scored in double figures three times, but she also hasn't scored in three games.
"I thought she played harder," Schaefer said. "I even mentioned it to her after the game, and she acknowledged it. Young kids, they think they're playing hard, and until they see it on film they don't realize it. I think for her it is understanding how hard we want you to play and not taking anything less than that. That is true for all of these kids. There is just a way of life around here that we do things. It is what has made us successful."
Schaefer said Bibby "dinged up" her ankle twice in the last week, so he was pleased to see her make a bigger contribution. He knows the Bulldogs will need Bibby, Bre'Amber Scott, Nyah Tate, and Jonika Garvin to emerge to bolster the Bulldogs' depth. He hopes Danberry provides an example for the rest of her teammates, especially with how hard she plays on defense.
"I think she fits in," Schaefer said. "Hopefully she is sitting over there watching how hard we're playing and she is going to come in and take it to another level."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.