Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Mississippi State Bulldogs keep winning, 26 victories so far on the road to a SEC regular-season title

Published on February 12, 2018

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STARKVILLE, Miss. – In front of their second consecutive sold out crowd, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (26-0, SEC 12-0) bested the Kentucky Wildcats (12-14, SEC 4-8) 74-55 in a SEC showdown that marked the Bulldog’s 26th straight win.

“I’m awfully proud of my team,” head coach Vic Schaefer said on the team’s performance. “I thought first quarter was special. I thought Roshunda [Johnson] was special. She really bailed us out of our bad sets and got us where we were at halftime. It changes us when you’ve got Blair [Schaefer] and Roshunda out there.”

All five of Mississippi State’s starters were able to contribute in the opening quarter. Kentucky allowed Mississippi State to slip under the radar during their defensive transitions while they had trouble converting. Senior guard Victoria Vivians eased into a rhythm to begin with nine points. Kentucky was only able to attempt seven shots, compared to Mississippi State’s 16 opening up a 22-8 lead in the first quarter.

Kentucky’s zeroed in on Vivians quickly, allowing Johnson to break open another fantastic shooting game beyond the arc. While Wildcat double teams smothered junior center Teaira McCowan and swarmed Vivians, Johnson helped create a dominating offense that relied on transitions and an active perimeter. Johnson’s 12 points puts pressure on Kentucky to find a quick answer to wipe away an 18-point hole Johnson dug for them herself.

“I felt like if I got started on defensive my offensive would come,” Johnson said on her performance. “I had my team behind me and they were looking for me. I knew I had to knock down shots when my time came.”

While defending the ball, Kentucky had five fouls in the first quarter. The defense cleaned up and the deficit held them back from their 14 points in the second quarter. Even with an improved display, no Wildcats were able to break into double digits. Three players tied for the team’s high four points entering halftime.

“They’re tough to defend,” Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “They have such a great post presence and Victoria is such an explosive player and she can do it all.”

A third quarter push for Kentucky cut their deficit to nine points, as sophomore guard Maci Morris led the team from the perimeter. Morris poured in the team’s high 17 points in transition to begin the second half. Kentucky outscored Mississippi State 21-16 in the third quarter.

“I knew had to be more aggressive,” Morris said. “[I wanted to] keep our team going and give us energy.”

After a monstrous half from Johnson, the Wildcats pinpointed defense on the Bulldogs perimeter. Closing in Mississippi State guard allowed the post to explode for 12 in-the-paint points. Kentucky’s earlier 18-point deficit kept Mississippi State in charge, with a 56-43 lead entering the third quarter.

A cold third quarter for McCowan was costly, but other Bulldogs found success in the third quarter as Vivians exploded for 10 points to keep the Bulldogs in front. McCowan bounced back for nine points in the fourth quarter for a final stat line of 21 points and 16 rebounds, accumulating her 18th double-double.

“She’s done a good job making the adjustment.” Schaefer said on the primary post player. “She went 6-of-8 in the second half and 21 points. It’s phenomenal what she’s doing. I don’t think people appreciate the player she is.”

To close out for the win, Mississippi State mirrored the emphasis on Kentucky guards. The aggressive defense pressured the ball, holding Kentucky to only 12 shot attempts and silencing Morris to only four points in the fourth quarter. Morris finished with a team-high 21 points.

Focusing on sophomore guard Taylor Murray was key for overcoming Kentucky. Coming into The Hump averaging 18 points per game and holding her to a peculiar seven points was a task well done by senior guard Morgan William who developed an aggressive approach to Murray’s critical shooting.

“I tried to get back in transition to get in front of her and slow her down a lot,” Morgan said on defending Murray. “Morris came out and we didn’t have an answer for it. We have to do better next game.”

William gave effective minutes late in the fourth quarter to close out Mississippi State’s win while the offense battled. William had big shots down the stretch to withstand a late Kentucky comeback. The Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats 18-12 in the final quarter to seal the 74-55 win.

William finished with six points, eight assists and no turnovers. Three Bulldogs totaled for double digits as Johnson finished with 17 points and Vivians had the team-high at 23.

Mississippi State has an opportunity to take the regular-season SEC championship with a win against Vanderbilt on Thursday. A program-first, Schaefer is continuing to work his team with their heads down. The Kentucky win marks Schaefer’s first time beating every single SEC team as a Mississippi State head coach. This win also continues the longest active win streak in Division I women’s basketball.

“I’m not satisfied,” Schaefer said on the many accomplishments this season. “I want more. If we’re going to achieve our goals I think there’s more. It’s so easy to get complacent. It’s human. It’s not acceptable. I want it so bad for these kids.”

The game against Vanderbilt will air on SEC Network at 7:30 p.m. C.T. Kentucky will host Arkansas Thursday at 7:00 p.m. C.T. and will be aired on SEC Network+.

 

This post is part of the thread: 2017-18 College Season – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.


 

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