Mississippi State senior Victoria Vivians (35) led the No. 2 Bulldogs with 24 points in Monday night’s 67-53 win over No. 7 South Carolina before a record 10,794 at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
February 6, 2018 1:37:25 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jazzmun Holmes found her voice Monday night.
The 5-foot-8 junior from Gulfport has played key roles on big stages plenty of times in her Mississippi State career. But Holmes' effort in the No. 2 MSU women's basketball team's 67-53 victory against No. 7 South Carolina before a Humphrey Coliseum record crowd of 10,794 had everything a coach could want from a point guard.
Holmes had "only" six points, but she grabbed four rebounds and matched her career high with eight assists. She also had two steals and delivered some of the most tenacious on-ball defense and pressure by a guard in Vic Schaefer's six seasons at MSU.
"Jazz came in in the second quarter and just changed our whole tempo, changed our offense," Schaefer said. "She got us going and she really affected our team in a positive way at both ends. In the second half she did the same thing."
Holmes was so good that don't you dare use the term "backup" when referring to her anymore.
While Holmes changed the complexion of the game in MSU's 19-8 second quarter, the former Harrison Central High School standout took center stage as master facilitator in the final 10 minutes.
With MSU trailing 44-39, Holmes had assists on four of the Bulldogs' first five baskets in the fourth quarter. The second assist came on a 3-pointer by Victoria Vivians (team-high 24 points) that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good, 46-44. The next two set up Blair Schaefer (14 points) for back-to-back treys.
All three set off eruptions in the Hump that made Michigan State women's basketball coach Suzy Merchant's claim that 7,000 in the Hump sounds like 70,000 sound tame.
"It is very special," Holmes said of the four assists. "I think that is something I do every day. It isn't anything new. I just find the open person and get them the ball where they need it. That is what coach wants from me."
Coach Schaefer drew criticism last season when he went with Holmes and not Morgan William in the fourth quarter of MSU's loss to South Carolina in the national title game. A year ago, Schaefer said he had confidence in Holmes' ability to lead the team and energize the Bulldogs.
This season, Holmes has taken Schaefer's encouragement to be even more vocal and to be an even better leader to heart. She said she felt she did that on a night MSU snapped an 11-game losing streak to South Carolina and helped coach Schaefer earn his first victory against the Gamecocks in 10 tries as coach in Starkville.
Holmes did it by displaying all of the qualities coach Schaefer loves in a point guard. She led Blair Schaefer with a pass over the head of a defender that allowed her teammate to step back behind the arc in the right corner and drain a trey.
On the ensuing possession, Holmes pushed the tempo on the right wing and zipped a pass to Schaefer in the left corner for another 3-pointer.
"It is instinct," Holmes said. "Blair is always in the corner, so that is where I threw it to. I just knew she was going to be there."
Said Blair Schaefer, "It is nothing new to us. No one on the outside sees it, but we see it in her every day. She is so quick at practice. If we ever need a lift at practice, (coach Schaefer) is like, 'Jazz get them going' because he knows she is the spark we need. She can find people on the perimeter. She knows how to use her quickness to get around people, and we just have this chemistry of where people are on the floor. It is no surprise it came out in the game today because we see it every day in practice."
Earlier in the quarter, Holmes pressured the basketball to force a held ball. Her dogged pursuit of South Carolina's point guards only intensified. The shining moment came when Holmes anticipated a pass and made a steal that catapulted her down the court for a layup that fouled out point guard Tyasha Harris. Holmes hit the free throw for a three-point play that gave MSU a 56-47 lead with 3 minutes, 36 seconds to play.
"I know what type of pressure I bring, and coach knows the type of pressure I bring," Holmes said. "I just have to bring that every game. That is exactly what my team needs from me. I need to do that no matter what."
Holmes' energy was so infectious that she said she received a lift from the noise from the crowd and the play of her teammates. In addition to providing a spark, Holmes also emerged as a vocal leader in the huddle when she said she told her teammates, "We're right here. We need to relax. We're good. This is our game."
After the game, Holmes said she knew the Bulldogs "had it" and that it was going to be "our game." It was easy to tell Holmes felt that way because her play oozed confidence and poise, much like how she performs in practice.
"This is Jazzmun Holmes," Schaefer said. "This isn't anything new. This is the same thing I saw last year. That is why she played in the games she played in a year ago. She went out there tonight and really led our team and put us in a good position to win -- on both ends. I think Jazz on defense tonight really bothered them a little bit. When you get a point guard that is out there playing on the point creating pressure, everybody behind her plays a little bit harder."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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