Mississippi State shows signs of life in annual exhibition game beating Arkansas Fort-Smith 100-67
— Mississippi State WBK (@HailStateWBK) November 4, 2017
STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State Bulldogs cruised through the Arkansas Fort-Smith Lions 100-67 in their annual exhibition game before the regular season begins.
“It was nice to get out and play in front of our fans,” head coach Vic Schaefer said about the exhibition game’s crowd. “I know they’re are excited to see this year’s team. I thought Fort-Smith fought and hung in there.”
Returning Bulldogs junior center Teaira McCowan along with senior guards Roshunda Johnson and Morgan William began the game with a full force offense and a crowding, disruptive defense for Lions to adjust to.
The starting big for Mississippi State, McCowan showed how much she understands her role in her growth and aggression for the defense. Utilizing her height for second-chance shots and an aggressive defensive front, McCowan picked up a double-double before the end of the first half. She finished with the team high 20 points and 12 rebounds.
“I can’t relax,” McCowan said on her new role. “I have to play aggressive on both sides of the ball and focus.”
Mississippi State flew past Arkansas Fort-Smith with communication, consistency and rhythm. Their ability to beat teams in transition, spread the floor to create spacing for their guards, and shooting efficiency separated them early on. Senior guards Blair Schaefer and Johnson caught fire to combine for 34 points beyond the arc. Johnson had the best 3-point percentage last season at 44 percent. She finished the exhibition game with 55 percent.
From three, the Bulldogs collected 45 of their 100 points. Depth at the guard position will be the weapon Schaefer can use to continue to score against teams, but also ease McCowan’s feat of scoring in the paint.
Sophomore forward Ameysha Williams and freshman forward Chloe Bibby are beginning to sprout for the Bulldogs. Bibby identifies with the fiery defense and determination to keep the team’s rhythm pumping. Bibby finished with four points, three rebounds and four fouls. Williams fouled out with four minutes remaining in the final quarter, finishing with six rebounds and eight points.
“She needs to be in the fire,” Schaefer said to Williams growing. “Playing experience cures a lot of problems. Her and Chloe have to play at our four. She’s going to get it against a lot of teams early.”
The Bulldog’s biggest faults of the night came from turnovers and lack of flow to begin the second half well. They also combined for an alarming 19 fouls and 12 turnovers. Rhythm with many fresh additions to the roster seemed difficult in the exhibition game, but only game play and time can glue the chemistry of the 2017-2018 Bulldogs roster together.
“This team has a chance to really embrace and enjoy the success of their teammates,” Schaefer said. “[Johnson and Schaefer] enjoy the extra pass to each other and once we develop that with everyone, I think it’ll help this team.”
Mississippi State is ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP Poll and No. 4 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. The Bulldogs will kick off their 2017-2018 season in the second half of a double-header with the men’s team against ACC member Virginia on November 11 at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network+.