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MSU Notebook: Schaefer back to normal for No. 2 Bulldogs


Adam Minichino



STARKVILLE -- Blair Schaefer is fine. 


You wouldn't have thought that would be the case if were watching the Mississippi State women's basketball team's game against Vanderbilt on Thursday. 


With 2 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Schaefer tried to move to her right to follow Kaleigh Clemons-Green. Unfortunately for Schaefer, Vanderbilt's Kayla Overbeck was in the way. As a result, Schaefer jammed her right shoulder when she bumped into Overbeck. The contact to a shoulder that already has suffered its share of bumps and bruises sent a shiver down Schaefer's body and forced her to wave her left arm and ask to come out of the game. 


"I have to continue getting treatment on it, but it is good," Schaefer said. "I am going to play through it. I have been playing through injuries all year." 


Schaefer said she didn't anticipate needing any special treatment to be able to play at 4 p.m. today (ESPN2) when No. 2 MSU (27-0, 13-0 Southeastern Conference) plays host to No. 17 Texas A&M (20-7, 9-4) at Humphrey Coliseum. 


Earlier in the season, MSU coach Vic Schaefer said he wasn't sure Blair would be able to play against Arkansas after she suffered a similar knock to her shoulder. He said she received multiple rounds of treatments to the shoulder that helped prepare her for a game in which she scored 14 points and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range. 


Schaefer is averaging 9.8 points per game and is shooting a team-best 41.6 percent from 3-point range. 


In the last five games, Schaefer is averaging 11.6 ppg. and is shooting 43.8 percent from behind the arc. 




MSU will be No. 1 seed in Nashville 


A year after missing out on a chance to share the SEC regular-season title with South Carolina, MSU secured the first No. 1 seed in program history for the SEC tournament. 


The top four seeds for the event, which begins Wednesday, Feb. 28, get double byes until Friday, which should give those teams an edge, especially if they have to play three games in three days to win a tournament title. 


Still, coach Schaefer said the parity in the league this season -- five teams enter today's action tied for third with 9-4 records -- should make for a challenging tournament. 


"It doesn't matter what night you play -- whether you're opening up on Wednesday or you're opening up on Friday -- you're going up against somebody that can beat you," Schaefer said. "I think this year's SEC tournament there are so many factors, question marks, anything-can-happen type game scenarios that it is really going to make for an exciting tournament. 


"It is no different from the 16-game grind of the regular season. On any night, you can get beat. If you are not ready to play and you're not focused, you might not get beat. You might get embarrassed. It should be a real exiting time in Nashville -- for some." 




Coaching staff almost at full strength 


Coach Schaefer said assistant coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett will return to work Monday following her maternity leave. 


Jackson-Durrett gave birth to Laila Renee Durrett last month prior to MSU's game against Alabama in Starkville. At 6 pounds, 13 ounces and 20 inches, the baby was born at 11:43 a.m. in Jackson. 


Since Jan. 14, MSU's coaches have had to fill in for Jackson-Durrett's duties. On Friday, coach Schaefer took time to praise the work of associate head coach Johnnie Harris, assistant coach Carly Thibault-DuDonis, and graduate assistant Dominique Dillingham. 


"I think Dom(inique Dillingham) has stepped in as a young coach and has balanced her going to class -- she is getting her master's (degree) -- with embracing whatever Johnnie and Carly have asked her to do -- without hesitation she does it. 


"Johnny and Carly have taken a big load on their shoulders and embraced. You can just see them every day. They are in the grind, in the moment, and focused. They leave nothing to chance. That is what you want as coaches.  


"We have to be ready to adapt, to make changes, and expect the unexpected. I have always been that way. I think they have embraced being that way. ... But I think those two in particular have really immersed themselves into the job at hand. ... They have done what I have been asking our kids to do. They have eliminated distractions to the point I am sure it has probably affected them a little bit in their personal lives. That is how much they care about our kids and our program. They are selfless. They're in it for the kids, and I can't say enough good things about them. They are worth every penny we are paying them." 


Seniors Blair Schaefer and Morgan William also complimented the work of the rest of the staff to help fill in while Jackson-Durrett was away. While Jackson-Durrett's absence might have meant one less voice for William and junior backup point guard Jazzmun Holmes to hear from the bench, William joked she wouldn't be surprised if Jackson-Durrett has a list of notes from the games the Bulldogs played in her absence. 


"They picked up with the film. They picked up talking to us on the bench," William said. "(Coach) Schaefer does it all the time, so I wouldn't say anything is pretty much different with him, but coach Harris and coach Carly always, they tell us what could have been open, what we need to do, where we need to adjust. Stuff like that balances out, but having (Jackson) back, she probably is going to have us running for stuff that we forgot about when she was here. I'm sure we'll be back sharper when she gets back." 


Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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