February 6, 2018 1:36:16 AM
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer believed in the preseason Chloe Bibby could bring a unique dimension to the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
At 6-foot-1, the freshman forward from Australia arrived in Starkville as a highly skilled player capable of stretching defenders to the 3-point line.
Schaefer also liked the fact Bibby, who has red hair, had a reputation for being as fiery as her hair color.
Bibby displayed some of all of those qualities Monday in her biggest minutes as a Bulldog in No. 2 MSU's 67-53 victory against No. 7 South Carolina before a Humphrey Coliseum record crowd of 10,794.
Bibby had seven points and three rebounds in 29 minutes, which matched her career high. Those numbers don't jump out at you, but Schaefer was able to go away from the four-guard lineup he has used all season and use Bibby in a bigger lineup because she made hustle plays and countered South Carolina's size with A'ja Wilson (game-high 25 points), Alexis Jennings, and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan.
"We had to have another big body," Schaefer said. "It is just hard to play the four-guard lineup. I thought Chloe was really, really special, affected the game in the first half offensively. I just thought she competed defensively trying to do what we want to do, and this is a kid who has only been in our system for five months."
Bibby played a key role in MSU's 19-8 second quarter that helped the Bulldogs erase the Gamecocks' 20-10 lead after one quarter. Bibby drained a 3-pointer off an assist from Jazzmun Holmes and then added a jumper off another assist from Holmes later in the quarter to cut South Carolina's lead to 26-25. Holmes fed Blair Schaefer (14 points) for a jumper off the glass that gave MSU (24-0, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) a 27-26 edge.
"She's a foreigner that can knock down shots," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "I think she is going to be a pretty good player in our league. When you can shoot the ball as well as she shoots the ball, she is going to be pretty good."
Bibby had only two free throws in the second half, but she played 19 solid minutes and continued to show signs she can provide a lift off the bench. Bibby hustled for an offensive rebound of a missed free throw by Teaira McCowan (nine points, 20 rebounds). She also nearly took her second charge of the season when she shifted over in an attempt to stop a drive by Wilson. Unfortunately, she was a step late and was called for her fifth foul with 50.3 seconds remaining. She left the court to a rousing ovation.
"I was just trying to be aggressive and help out where I could, box out, and just do the little things," Bibby said.
Those little things could earn Bibby more playing time, especially if the Bulldogs face teams with more size that makes playing with a four-guard lineup tougher. Schaefer said he has confidence in Bibby because her size and shooting ability give him flexibility on defense to match up with bigger teams and on offense to stretch defenses.
Holmes said the Bulldogs see those things from Bibby every day in practice.
"Chloe is a tough player," Holmes said. "She can stretch it. She can make different moves in the paint. For Chloe to come out and do what she did tonight is special, and it is special for our team. She needs to keep working and know that we need her to win the games we need to win."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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