Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer eyes a piece of net he plans to cut down as a memento from the 76-55 victory against No. 17 Texas A&M on Sunday. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch Buy this photo.
February 19, 2018 11:12:11 AM
STARKVILLE -- "Spectacular" isn't a word Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer has used very often -- if at all -- this season to describe his team's defense.
But Schaefer didn't hesitate Sunday to use the superlative to highlight No. 2 MSU's performance on the end of the court that is near and dear to his heart in a 76-55 victory against No. 17 Texas A&M before a sold-out crowd of 9,933 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"I thought we were just really spectacular with how we tried to defend," Schaefer said.
MSU (28-0, 14-0 Southeastern Conference), which entered the game first in the SEC and 14th nationally in scoring defense (55 points per game), held Texas A&M (20-8, 9-5) to a season-low point total and a season-low field goal shooting percentage (18-for-57, 31.6 percent). It was third time this season the Aggies, who came in scoring 77.4 ppg., scored less than 60 points. The 31.6-percent shooting performance was the seventh time Texas A&M shot less than 40 percent.
"Mississippi State thoroughly took us out of everything we wanted to do," Blair said. "Give them a lot of credit."
Blair said MSU, which won a program-record 34 games last season and lost to South Carolina in the national title game, is a better team this season because it is better on offense. On Sunday, MSU turned to its defense and held Texas A&M to its lowest shooting effort from the field (18-for-57, 31.6 percent). Chennedy Carter led the Aggies with 31 points, but she needed 29 shots to eclipse 30 points for the fifth time this season. Anriel Howard added 14 points and 10 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season, but MSU turned 16 turnovers into a 16-2 edge in points off turnovers.
"They made it hard on us running some stuff," Blair said. "When we did run some stuff, we missed some shots early in the game. McCowan changed a lot of shots, or we bricked a couple of shots. That is all on us. She is a force in there."
Blair also praised Johnson's defensive effort on junior guard Danni Williams, who was 0-for-7 from the field. Williams entered the game averaging 14.7 points per game. She finished with one point.
"It was hard, but I rely on my defense a lot, so I am always focused on the defensive end more than the offensive end," Johnson said. "I let it come to me on the offensive end. It is challenging. She is a good player. I feel like I played pretty good defense tonight. That was my focus tonight, not letting her get hot."
Schaefer, who earned the nickname "Secretary of Defense" while an assistant/associate head coach for Blair, said the toughness and competitive fire his players showed on defense were part of the effort that helped shut down the Aggies.
"To be able to do that against that team is really, really hard to do," Schaefer said. "Coach is such an offensive genius. I go into a game like that wondering, 'What does he have in his back pocket that I am not ready for?' I have been worried about it for three days.
"It takes a tremendous effort, focus, and commitment. These kids had it today."
Blair also was impressed by MSU's defense and how it has matured after losing Dominique Dillingham from last season's team. Dillingham was regarded as the team's defensive stopper.
"They're getting better," Blair said. "They rose to the occasion because Dillingham was a great defensive player. She could shut you down. Well, Ro probably hasn't done that as well as Vic would have wanted all year, but he has her attention now. That is going to give her a whole lot of confidence on what she just did."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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