Mississippi State remains undefeated in conference play after beating Alabama, 75-61
Mississippi State improves to 19-0 after beating Alabama
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Hosting a Superhero Theme Day, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-0, 5-0) secured a 75-61 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (13-5, 3-2) to stay perfect on the season.
“Hats off to Alabama,” Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer said on Alabama’s competitveness. “I thought they played extremely well. Those kids are tough. Those seniors are seasoned. You get them going in the wrong direction, and they find a way to fight back.”
Mississippi State started the game with their usual strong scoring, but Alabama guard Hannah Cook and forward Quanetria Bolton kept the Crimson Tide in range. MSU senior guard Roshunda Johnson helped the Bulldogs hold on for the first quarter, scoring eight points to begin the game. Cook’s shooting began to overcome Mississippi State’s complacent defense. She had eight points in the first 10 minutes and led Alabama to a 20-16 lead in the first quarter.
To start the second quarter, Schaefer pulled Blair Schaefer from guarding Cook, and allowed bench player Jordan Danberry into the game to defend against Alabama’s perimeter shooting. Freshman forward Chloe Bibby and junior guard Jazzmun Holmes came in as well. This limited hot handed Cook and senior guard Meoisha Knight. Danberry efficiently put the cap on Cook.
Danberry is a new addition to Mississippi State, transferring to the school last fall semester and making her debut against Little Rock on December 10. Her energy, along with Holmes, furthered the Bulldog’s goal to pressure in the second quarter.
Her early impact on the team helps give Mississippi State on a new defensive edge. Though she only scored two points, her 12 minutes in the game altered many options for Alabama.
“I knew he wanted us to pressure the ball and get in the passing lane,” Danberry said on her performance. “I tried my best to do what was asked of us and get in a stance. Especially playing with Holmes. She brings a ton of energy as well.”
She kept it up close and personal for Cook. Danberry pinpointed spots where Cook dribbled and set her shot, completely diminishing the windows she set. She forced Cook to drive inside, where junior center Teaira McCowan was ready to defend the shot.
Turnovers and stingy ball movement put Alabama in a hole that they could not patch up.
“We gave up 50-plus between turnovers and second-chance points,” Alabama head coach Kristy Curry said. “I loved our half-court defense. We understood tendencies, but you can’t defend a turnover and we really struggled defensively to get stops when we had a turnover.”
Though Alabama started strong, they were ill prepared for the diversity of the Mississippi State bench. The bench may have only scored eight total points, but Danberry and Bibby altered how Mississippi State moved the ball and stopped Alabama’s charging offense.
The Crimson Tide suffered a wave of confusion. Mississippi State’s ball movement kept different Bulldogs involved for scoring, and with a different format in many spots of the floor, Victoria Vivians cranked it up for 12 of the 28 second quarter points. Her second quarter performance allowed Mississippi State to propel over Alabama, outscoring them 28-9.
MSU continued their performance from the second quarter throughout the entire second half. They kept their composure with a smooth third quarter, besides some controversial calls. The slow third quarter kept MSU ahead where McCowan marked her 14th double-double of the season and finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
“It impacts our team and we have to have that night-in and night-out,” Schaefer said on the McCowan’s impact. “That’s the challenge for her. She has to bring that every night. She has to be that person that is able to stay out of foul trouble, rebound and affect the game on both ends of the floor.”
Cook led an attempted comeback for Alabama in the fourth quarter, but Alabama still fell short. She scored a career-high of 25 points on the season.
Three Bulldogs scored double digit points. Vivians finished with 21 points, and Johnson with 14.
“We just wanted to move the ball a lot and we knew they were going to get in our face, so we wanted to be patient, wait on our screens, get the ball in and move and take good shots.” Cook said on Alabama’s game plan.
The attendance against Alabama was 9,010, the third largest crowd the Hump has hosted. The only time the ear-shattering atmosphere froze in time was for an injured Crimson Tide forward Ashley Williams, who was carried out on a stretcher. She had a head-to-head collision with Danberry with 45 seconds remaining in the game.
“It’s so special,” Schaefer said on the record attendance. “There’s not a free ticket in the building. These people are paying to see a product. I’m so proud of it and I hope my kids are proud of it. I hope they understand how unique and special it is.”
This win keeps Mississippi State undefeated and in first place with five straight wins in the SEC, but the Tennessee Lady Volunteers are on their heels. MSU will face off in Tennessee for first place in the conference January 21. Alabama now drops to 3-2 in the SEC, and have another top matchup, hosting Texas A&M January 17.