Mississippi State shows poise and power in guard play, cruises over in-state rival Southern Miss 91-56

STARKVILLE, Miss. – In a Sunday afternoon matchup, the Mississippi State Bulldogs hosted in-state rivals, the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles and earned a 91-56 win. The Bulldogs showed their strong suit in the play of the senior guards

“Really proud of our team and our fans were into it,” head coach Vic Schaefer said about the day. “It’s fun to watch these kids play and share the ball. When we make shots like we did today, it’s not only fun to watch, it’s fun to coach. They’re going to be hard to beat.”

Mississippi State hit the floor running with swiftness and a healthy balance of perimeter shooting and defense to restrict Southern Miss early. The Bulldogs ended the first quarter with a 31-8 lead. Victoria Vivians scored ten points with Blair Schaefer behind her with nine. The first quarter stellar shooting was result of a four-guard lineup Schaefer was experimenting with and, with much success, seems to be the new norm.

“This is a different team,” Schaefer said. “I can’t say I’ve ever coached a team that shot the ball as well as we have.”

Golden Eagles head coach Joyce Lee-McNelis called the four-guard lineup a dominating force to be reckoned with, easily noting them as a national championship team.

“They shot the cover off of [the ball],” Lee-McNelis said on the shooting. “I don’t think we defended the ball well, but if you can shoot it the way they did to start the game it just says how good they really are.”

With only one turnover, Mississippi State’s clean offense created a game of catch up for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 18-17 in the second period but still had much more work to do as they left the floor at the half trailing 48-26.

Though senior guard Morgan William has not been contributed shooting wise, she keeps the Bulldogs poised, getting the little things done on the court. Her assists have kept Mississippi State afloat. She earned a milestone 500th career assist on her fifth assist of the game. Three games into the season, William has 24 assists and no turnovers.

“Our point guard play is really special right now,” Schaefer said. “We had 10 turnovers and forced 26 turnovers. When you have point guards not turning the ball over, you always have a chance to win.”

The diverse skill set and overpowering depth in the guard position gives Mississippi State the advantage this season. With four skilled guards running the floor who possess chemistry, teams cannot take the chance of leaving one open.

“[Blair Schaefer and Roshunda Johnson] have had this chemistry for going on a year and it’s just spreading to our team,” Schaefer said. “[Jazzmun Holmes and Morgan William] are able to see the floor so well and are able to find [guards] where they like to be. It’s a different team.”

“It makes it extremely tough to guard them,” Lee-McNelis said. “Last year we were able to sandwich [Teaira McCowan] but now, Vivians is at the four. When you have the shooters they have, you have to figure out which area you can help off of, right now there’s nobody.”

Redshirt senior guard Roshunda Johnson has been playing a vital role in the Bulldogs’ success. Johnson, a fast-paced, high energy shooter has become another beloved hero of the powerful offense. Johnson also shows strengths in defense. She finished with a career-high of 29 points with an additional four rebounds and three assists.

“I think I still have a lot to work on,” Johnson said. “I feel like my defense led to my offense.”

Junior center McCowan stifled the Golden Eagles’ performance in the paint, grabbing 10 of the 44 rebounds Mississippi State and recorded with 10 points. McCowan earned her first double-double of the season and her eleventh in her collegiate career. She is now third in school history blocks at 110.

Five Bulldogs landed in double digits in the win including freshman forward Chloe Bibby, who finished with ten points and five rebounds. Bibby continues to show a promising future for the team.

Megan Brown led Southern Miss with 11 points while Shonte Hailes scored 10 points and dished out five assists.

Mississippi State leads the series between the two teams with a 23-22 record and stands at 3-0 as conference play begins next month. The next challenge for Mississippi State is Cancun Challenge on Thursday. The Bulldogs open with the Arizona State Sun Devils at 12:30 p.m. CT.

“We’ll probably go to Cancun and can’t throw the ocean into the beach if we’re standing on a high tide,” Schaefer joked. “The four-guard lineup is evolving and here to stay. My job is to find out some different things to do with it to make us even better.”

Southern Miss heads home to host Alcorn State Friday in the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic.

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