November 16, 2018 10:21:20 AM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Jessika Carter is still adjusting to the spotlight.
The Mississippi State freshman will have to get used to answering questions more regularly if she keeps delivering performances like she did Thursday night.
Carter had her most productive effort as a Bulldog with 10 points and eight rebounds in No. 6 MSU's 104-53 victory against Lamar before a crowd of 7,107 at Humphrey Coliseum.
In her first post-game appearance in front of the media, Carter admitted she didn't know MSU coach Vic Schaefer's routine of circling items on the final stat sheet he liked and squaring ones he didn't like. The number that caught Schaefer's eye on this night was Carter's four blocked shots in 18 minutes.
"I have got her (four blocks) circled about five times," Schaefer said. "The only thing I would block her on is 2-for-4 from the free-throw line, but I didn't do that. Jess is going to be in here more often than tonight."
Carter, a 6-foot-5 center from Waverly Hall, Georgia, saw her most minutes due in part to senior center Teaira McCowan getting whistled for her fourth foul with 5 minutes, 6 seconds left in the third quarter. Carter was noticeably active in defending shots and going strong to the rim. She said she needs "to be consistent" to help raise her confidence level. The brief answer was typical of some freshmen who aren't used to the glare of the post-game media attention. Later in the 16-plus minute interview, Carter opened up a little more -- thanks to a little prompting from Schaefer -- and said Schaefer has been asking her to "play hard, jump, block shots and be active in practice so she will emerge as a bigger defensive presence.
"I have been trying to get her to do that," Schaefer said. "She was really special. ... She's been practicing really well. This is a kid that's been in practice the last couple of weeks just getting better."
Schaefer is confident Carter has it in her to be dominant force in the paint.
"She is going to be a monster," Schaefer said. "The good thing for her is she has some veterans at four (power forward) and five (center) she can learn from right now."
Tale of two halves
Schaefer wasn't pleased with his team's first 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs committed 12 of their 20 turnovers and shot 37.8 percent (14-for-37) in the first half in building a 35-28 halftime lead.
"I'm extremely disappointed with the first half," Schaefer said. "You don't have to look any further than me. I'm responsible for our team and, obviously, I didn't have them ready to play. I thought they made some great adjustments at halftime."
MSU committed an uncharacteristic five turnovers on inbounds plays. The Bulldogs also lacked an edge in the first half that the Cardinals capitalized on. Senior guard Chastadie Barrs, who was named to the watch list for the Lieberman Award (nation's top point guard), had 13 points and three of her team's 10 steals in the first half. The Cardinals had 14 steals for the game, but they shot only 25.7 percent from the field (19-for-74). Barrs finished with 16 points on 7-for-25 shooting from the field.
Schaefer wasn't pleased that Anriel Howard (five) and Chloe Bibby (four) combined for nine turnovers at forward.
Backup point guard Myah Taylor also committed six turnovers in 14 points. Schaefer said the Bulldogs were "loose" with the ball and accepted the blame for his team's performance.
"I was disappointed with our attention to detail, especially in the first half. I think a lot of our turnovers were, simply, that we were loose with the ball," Schaefer said. "We really had a lack of focus, again, my fault. I am the head coach. If they're not focused and ready to play, then that's on me. I've got to do a better job of getting them focused and getting them ready to play."
This and that
Senior guard Jordan Danberry had a career-high 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field. The 10 attempts matched the high mark in a game as a Bulldog she set last season in a 98-50 victory against Florida on Feb. 8, 2018. ... MSU will play host to Coppin State at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Bulldogs will unveil their national runner-up banner prior to the game. ... Last week, MSU changed the start time for its game against Furman on Wednesday. The game will kick off at 2 p.m. at Humphrey Coliseum.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.