Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Mississippi State has unfinished business but celebrates its first-ever SEC regular season championship

Published on February 19, 2018

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Bulldogs with the SEC regular-season title for the first time

STARKVILLE, Miss. – As a glorious SEC chant rung throughout the sold-out Humphrey Coliseum, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (28-0, 14-0 SEC) claimed a 76-55 win against Texas A&M (20-8, 9-5 SEC) in a historic Pink Out game Sunday.

After outworking the Aggies pink and white streamers pumped through the cannons and onto hardwood floors. Mississippi State’s team members happily frolicked through the party favors as 9,933 fans cheered on the team’s accomplishment. The regular season task was complete.

“It’s always thrown in our face that it’s not ours,” Victoria Vivians said. “It’s finally ours. We just tried to enjoy the moment.”

Her team had just claimed their first-ever regular season Southeastern Conference program title.

“To be able to do tonight in front of our Mississippi State fans and family, it was very special and I’m so happy for my players and my staff,” said Bulldogs head coach Vic Schaefer. “To win a Southeastern Conference championship: it takes something very special from each of them. I’m really proud of them.”

For the past 28 games, Mississippi State has had what it takes to win time after time. Dominance, fluidity, teamwork and patience led theme to the title. This is what it takes to create an undefeated powerhouse. These team traits were exemplified during the Texas A&M game to help MSU seal the win.

“They have committed themselves to the process,” Schaefer said. “I’ve tried to coach and teach them to enjoy the process. These kids have answered the bell every single night. They’ve committed themselves to a discipline and they’ve done it.”

The “punch first” mentality set the game standard for the Bulldogs. It gave them a 24-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. With a double team against center Teaira McCowan, depth at the perimeter gave MSU the spark that they needed to advance the ball and beat out Texas A&M’s lagging transition defense.

Three straight empty possessions pushed Mississippi State ahead with a 11-0 run, as the confident start kept the Aggies from a flowing ball movement as miscommunications began to cause frustrations within their lackluster offense.

Texas A&M’s Chennedy Carter overcame the shooting hump quickly. She conjured up 16 first half points and finished with 31 overall. Forward Anriel Howard scored 14 points to accommodate the offense. Mississippi State had five Bulldogs involved in the 36 points at halftime, which made the difference from the Aggie’s one-man-band show from Carter.

Fluidity was not a problem for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State held Texas A&M to only two double-digit scorers while five Bulldogs landed in double digits. Vivians and McCowan both earned double-doubles. Vivians kept the pace with Carter, as she went took off for 26 points and 12 rebounds. Roshunda Johnson contributed 16 points. Johnsons defensive performance, one which people do not take note of, held 15-point average Aggie Danni Williams to one made free throw. The starting five Bulldogs played over 30 minutes apiece to seal the win.

“These kids never get tired,” Schaefer commented on the team performance. ”They’re fully empowered and that’s how they’re built. That’s how we’ve built our program with that kind of mindset. We’re just tougher than everybody. I’m so proud of their toughness and competitive spirit.”

Vic Schaefer has built a fantastic program all-around. As the best players in the nation led them to the first-ever title, boisterous and fans rived to the action were behind them every step of the way. Texas A&M head coach Gary Blair felt the pressure against the Hump today and complimented his former assistant coach on his road to victory since his start as head coach in Starkville since 2012.

“[To have a] sellout crowd and the way this state has embraced Mississippi State, [this is why] they are the second-best team in the nation.” Blair said.

A part of their historic season, the team’s fan base has been noted as one of the best in the nation. Attendance has skyrocketed throughout the years, and as Schaefer’s vision comes into reality, he has the state of Mississippi behind him.

“If you’ve got a pulse or care anything about what you do, how can you not want to lay it on the line?” Schaefer said on the crowd’s impact. “That’s the beauty of our fan base and Mississippi State. You can’t help but want to lay it on the line, dive on the floor for loose balls and play hard. These kids have embraced these fans. It’s a really special and unique situation.”

As the team celebrates the program’s first SEC regular-season championship, the Bulldogs still have unfinished business. Two more games remain before the end of the regular season. They can finish undefeated, another program first, for thirty straight wins. That’s only a part of three goals Mississippi State has on their to-do list. The SEC tournament and the NCAA March Madness tournament still awaits.

The Bulldogs will finish their home game slate with their matchup against the Auburn Tigers on Thursday. The contest is set to air on SEC Network + at 7 p.m.


 

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