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MSU's seniors will play at home for final time in regular season

 

Mississippi State senior  Victoria Vivians holds up a Southeastern Conference sign after a victory against Texas A&M on Sunday that clinched the program's first SEC regular-season title. The team's seniors will play Auburn in their final regular-season home game at 7 tonight.

Mississippi State senior Victoria Vivians holds up a Southeastern Conference sign after a victory against Texas A&M on Sunday that clinched the program's first SEC regular-season title. The team's seniors will play Auburn in their final regular-season home game at 7 tonight. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Derek Cody is going to have a difficult time paring the season-ending highlight video for the Mississippi State women's basketball team. 

 

As assistant director/video operations, Cody is in charge of a team that assembles footage and puts it to music to help promote the No. 2 MSU women. His work and the work of his team members is seen regularly at the Hail State Hoops luncheons and on the video board before, during, and after games at Humphrey Coliseum. 

 

At 7 tonight, Cody likely will have an abbreviated version of some of the highlights for Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, Victoria Vivians, and Morgan ready to go. When those clips will be seen remains to be seen, but they likely won't be seen prior to No. 2 MSU's game against Auburn at the Hump. 

 

MSU coach Vic Schaefer doesn't want to see a repeat of last season when seniors Ketara Chapel, Dominique Dillingham, Chinwe Okorie, and Breanna Richardson were honored before the game against Tennessee and then MSU lost its regular-season home finale 82-64. That's why the highlights might be shown at halftime or after the game, which is more likely. The footage is bound to include highlights from the seniors' contributions to the program's first Southeastern Conference regular-season title. MSU's 76-55 against then-No. 17 Texas A&M on Sunday was the latest of a program-record 117 wins for Schaefer, Vivians, and William. Johnson, a transfer from Oklahoma State, has been with the program for the last three years. She had to sit out her first year in Starkville due to NCAA transfer rules. 

 

Cody could keep going for hours. 

 

n Vivians is one of only two players in the SEC shooting 50 percent from the field this season. 

 

n Johnson is averaging 17 points per game and is shooting 51 percent from the field in the last four games. 

 

n Schaefer is second in the SEC in 3-pointers per game (2.7). She enters the home stretch of her career with 75 treys this season, which is the third-highest total in program history. 

 

n William is averaging 5.6 assists per game in the last five games. She is second in the nation with a 4.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

 

Those are the things most people know about the seniors. But there are plenty of things people don't know about them. 

 

Vivians offered a little insight into her classmates Wednesday. 

 

"I know Morgan likes to scare Blair when she is at home," Vivians said. "She hides under her bed. I know Ro likes to wear eyelashes. I know Blair likes to be dramatic. Like when she speaks, if you follow her on Snapchat, you will understand." 

 

Schaefer, Johnson, and William couldn't help but smile when they heard Vivians' answer. They also had their chance to dish a few "secrets" about their teammates, even though Schaefer deferred because she said couldn't divulge the sensitive information to the media. 

 

"I know Tori likes to eat a lot of doughnuts," Johnson said. While Johnson was thinking about other things, MSU coach Vic Schaefer piped in "and ice cream before Johnson continued. 

 

"Blair stays on Snapchat all of the time. If you follow her, it is pretty funny," Johnson said. "Morgan, even though she looks quiet, she is really not quiet. She likes to crack jokes all of the time and tries to be funny all of the time. 

 

Not to be denied, William chimed in and said, "Tori likes to buy candy, Pringles, sodas. Blair when she is hungry, she goes and gets a salad from McAllister's. Even when she is starving she goes and gets a salad. I think that is weird, but ... ".  

 

Through all of the quirks, Blair Schaefer said the Bulldogs have found a way to blend their personalities and skills to try to win a national title in their final season. A year ago, MSU rolled through Troy, DePaul, Washington, and Baylor before upsetting four-time reigning national champion Connecticut 66-64 in overtime in the national semifinals. South Carolina denied MSU its first national title by beating the Bulldogs for the third time. 

 

This season, the seniors have played key roles in victories against South Carolina and Kentucky that have enabled MSU (28-0, 14-0 SEC) to enter the home stretch as one of two remaining undefeated teams (UConn is the other) in Division I women's college basketball. Schaefer said the seniors understand what the Bulldogs need to make the chemistry so strong. 

 

"We find the things we're good at and I think we complement each other really well," Schaefer said. "Someone is not going to do something another person is really good at. I just feel like we have a really good awareness and understanding of what it takes to win because of last year, and then we understand that we had to add a few things to each of our games if we want to go further." 

 

Coach Schaefer said it is hard to believe it has been four years with the seniors. From 27 to 28 to 34 wins in the first three seasons, the seniors have played an integral role in elevating MSU into the national discussion. 

 

"I'm really excited for them tomorrow night to be able to play here at home again," said coach Schaefer, in reference to the program's fourth-straight sellout. "They deserve (another sellout). Each of them has done so much for the program over the years. ... I'm just so proud of each of them and appreciative for each of them. What they've done and brought to the table. What they've meant to this university and to our community. They're tremendous family kids. Their parents have done a wonderful job with them. It's been easy to coach each of them. They're fiercely competitive. They're just great kids. They've been wonderful. I'm excited for them for not only this season and what we've been able to accomplish, but I think there's something special in store for them as well. It should be a great night." 

 

NOTE: Doors will open at 5 p.m. Fans can take pictures with the SEC championship trophy prior to the game in the Mize Pavilion lobby. A limited number of 2018 SEC Champions posters also will be available. ... On Wednesday, coach Schaefer was named a semifinalist for the Werner Ladder Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced. Last season, Schaefer was one a finalist for the award. Combined with last year's program-record 34 wins, the Bulldogs have won 62 games the last two years, which is tied with UConn for most in the nation. ... With an attendance of 5,660, MSU will reach 110,000 for the year and Schaefer will donate $10,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Starkville through Cadence Bank. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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