Article Comment 

No. 2 MSU women primed to begin run at SEC title

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

STARKVILLE -- The next step is almost here. 

 

Now that the Mississippi State women's basketball team has had a chance to savor the program's first Southeastern Conference regular-season title, coach Vic Schaefer and his players are eager to set out on the next phase of their championship mission. Today, No. 2 MSU (30-0) will practice again in preparation for the winner of the game today between No. 8 seed and No. 9 seed Kentucky in the second round of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. MSU and the winner of that game will play at noon Friday (SEC Network).  

 

"We have talked from day one about winning championships," Schaefer said. "I put it on them early (by saying) you'll be favored in every game you play in, so if we do get beat, it will be an upset, and they have been able to wear that." 

 

Schaefer said the leadership of seniors Victoria Vivians, Blair Schaefer, Morgan William, and Roshunda Johnson and the experience provided by juniors Teaira McCowan and Jazzmun Holmes has been a stabilizing force on a team that enters the SEC tournament as one of two remaining undefeated teams (with Connecticut) in Division I women's college basketball. 

 

Schaefer said the strength of the team chemistry has been another driving factor in the team's success. With Vivians, McCowan, and Johnson averaging in double figures and Schaefer right behind at 9.8 points per game, the Bulldogs haven't had to rely on one player to shoulder a massive load. Instead, MSU's ability to share the basketball (484 assists), to take care of it (332 turnovers), and to shoot it (47.5 percent from the field, 39.5 percent from 3-point range) have helped it weather the ups and downs associated with the marathon that is the regular season. 

 

Senior guard Blair Schaefer said the work by the coaches to stress the Bulldogs didn't need to lose a game to learn a lesson helped drive them to complete the first undefeated regular season by a SEC team since Tennessee in 1998. MSU's 16-0 run through the league is the third time a SEC team has accomplished that feat since the SEC went to a 16-game format. 

 

Johnson said the Bulldogs are "focused" and are "still hungry" because they haven't achieve their overall goal, which is to win a national championship. Last season, MSU defeated four-time reigning national champion UConn 66-64 in overtime in the national semifinals. It lost to South Carolina in the national title game. The loss was the third to the Gamecocks in the 2016-17 season. 

 

This season, MSU has ended losing streaks to South Carolina and Kentucky to secure the top seed and the valuable double bye in the SEC tournament. Johnson said MSU has celebrated its first regular-season title but it won't allow that accomplishment to get in the way of the ones that are to come. 

 

"It is just like when we raised the banner for our Final Four. When stuff is done, we still have more things to accomplish," Johnson said. "We have to put it behind us and know we still have other championships we want to get to." 

 

Schaefer has talked in previous years about the different parts of a season and how it is important for teams to take a breath and to re-focus. He is confident this year's team will be able to do regardless of which teams it faces along the way on a journey he hopes winds all the way to the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio. 

 

Schaefer has talked in previous years about the different parts of a season and how it is important for teams to take a breath and to re-focus. He is confident this year's team will be able to do regardless of which teams it faces along the way on a journey he hopes winds all the way to the Final Four in Columbus, Ohio. 

 

"I think you sit around and think how good you are and the next thing you know you will be home here on Saturday morning," Schaefer said. "I think you have to understand, 'Great job. Great accomplishment. So proud of you, but there is another championship this weekend, and after that there is another part of the season that in a lot of circles is the most important part of the season. 

 

"What we have accomplished to date is incredible, but as I have told this team -- these seniors especially -- you won't be judged on last year. You will be judged on this year and what you accomplish this year. They have had a lot of success to this point, but I think there is a lot more out there for them, and I think they want it. They have shown me nothing to make me think otherwise." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

printer friendly version | back to top

 

 

 

AP Headlines

 

 

Blogs

 

MSU Sports Blog

 

Rob Hardy on Books

 

High School Sports Blog

 

Want to blog on cdispatch.com?

 

 

 

Follow Us:

Follow Us on Facebook

Follow Us on Twitter

Follow Us via Email