Victoria Vivians drives to the basket Sunday as Alabama’s Shaquera Wade defends in their game at Humphrey Coliseum. Vivians scored a team-high 21 points in the No. 4 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 75-61 victory. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
January 15, 2018 9:45:41 AM
STARKVILLE -- The slightest thing can set a scorer off.
Whether it's a pump fake, the feel of a basketball's seams, or a nifty pass from a teammate, Victoria Vivians has used them all to become one of the nation's most dangerous scorers.
Vivians is even more dangerous when she gets a full head of steam.
That's the dilemma Alabama faced with Vivians charging down the court with the ball in her hands. Up until that point, the Mississippi State senior guard was 1-for-7 from the field. But things change when Vivians has the ball in her hands in the open floor. The 6-foot-1 guard often is at her most expressive and explosive when she attacks with defenders backpedaling.
In this instance, Vivians put the throttle down and went all the way to the rim to convert a layup and to draw a foul. The ensuing free throw gave No. 4 MSU the lead for good and propelled it to a 75-61 victory in a Southeastern Conference game before a crowd of 9,010 at Humphrey Coliseum.
Vivians scored a team-high 21 points to help MSU improve to 19-0 and 5-0 in the SEC. Teaira McCowan added 19 points and 16 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season. Roshunda Johnson (14 points) was the other Bulldog in double figures on a day when one quarter of 50-percent plus shooting was good enough. The 10-for-19 effort from the field came in a second quarter in which MSU outscored Alabama (13-5, 3-2) 28-9.
Vivians scored 12 of her points in the frame, including 10 in a row. McCowan added eight points to help the Bulldogs erase a 22-16 deficit.
"Eight-for 20 (shooting from the field) is not good," Vivians said. "I feel that little streak that I had when I was hot is because we were getting defensive stops and we were going in transition and getting easy buckets. When you get easy buckets, everything starts flowing."
Vivians kicked off the scoring run with the drive in which she collected the ball at three-quarter court and attacked. She slid to the left to avoid contact in the lane and to draw the foul while making the basket. She followed with two free throws, a 3-pointer off an assist from Morgan William, and a pull-up jump shot over Ashley Williams that forced Alabama coach Kristy Curry to call a timeout.
"I thought a couple of times you want to force her left and we let her go right," Curry said. "There were just a couple of little breakdowns, but I think all of that came off us not getting our defense set. She is a great player. She was right about at her average today, so it was just another day at the office for her."
MSU coach Vic Schaefer said after the game he is "about to go nuts" due to his team's inconsistency starting games. The performance against Alabama comes on the heels of a 14-0 start Thursday against Ole Miss. He wasn't pleased about the prospects of giving up 80 points after Alabama scored 20 in the first 10 minutes.
Schaefer said the Bulldogs continue to be "a long way away" from being the defensive team he wants them to be.
Even with MSU's defense a work in progress, it's hard to slow the Bulldogs down with so many offensive weapons, especially when Vivians finds her rhythm and gets out in the open court and creates.
"Once she gets going who is going to stop her?" McCowan said. "Let's be honest."
n NOTE: Williams went down with 45.7 seconds remaining in the game after apparently colliding with MSU's Jordan Danberry. Williams appeared to be motionless for more than five minutes. She was attended to by medical personnel and was loaded onto a stretcher and taken off the court. Curry said after the game that Williams had been taken to the hospital and that she didn't have an update on her condition. An update on Williams wasn't available at press time.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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