Mississippi State honors senior quartet, seals a perfect home slate

Mississippi State makes program history with 15 straight home wins

STARKVILLE, Miss. – After last season’s stunning 64-82 loss against Tennessee on Senior Night, Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer said there would be no Senior Night festivities for the next year. Thursday night, the seniors celebrated with an 82-61 victory over Auburn. The win capped the program’s first undefeated home slate with 15 straight wins.

This season’s seniors have rewritten record books all throughout their career at Mississippi State. Humphrey Coliseum honored senior tetrad Victoria Vivians, Blair Schaefer, Roshunda Johnson and Morgan William with a sold-out crowd for their home finale against the Auburn. They are the winningest senior class in program history with 118 wins.

“Senior Nights are a little bittersweet but tonight wasn’t,” Schaefer said. “It was a celebration for these four. They deserved it. I’m happy for them.”

Vivians split a team-high 16 with Johnson and Teaira McCowan. Starting her career as the best scorer in Mississippi girls’ basketball history, Vivians brought passion, leadership and talent to the team. She is the second Bulldog to score 2,000 points in her career. She finished her home slate with the most starts in program history.

“I’m grateful to be surrounded around good people,” Vivians said. “The all-around support is such a blessing.”

Junior McCowan also etched her name in history. Her 16 points and dominating 18 rebounds marks her 21st double-double performance this season. This is the most any Mississippi State player has had in the regular season.

An unsung hero, Johnson kicked off with a three-point performance. She finished 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Auburn’s Janiah McKay scored 16 points in the first half while the Tigers trailed 42-29. Johnson focused her defense to lock McKay to just nine points. Johnson is the best shooter on the team with a three-point percentage of 43 percent.

“It felt good,” Johnson said. “We let the game come to us. Once we got our momentum everything else lead.”

Schaefer appeared in her senior finale in the final quarter, opening with two big three-point shots to begin an 8-0 run. Though her only points of her game, she helped collapse Auburn’s offense and took charges for turnovers. Attending Starkville High School, the hometown hero solidified her legacy as Starkville’s very own player.

“It was really special to spend it with these guys,” Schaefer said. “We fought through so many hard battles. To do this in front of this crowd today was awesome.”

William, the usual facilitator for assists, did not minimize her role on Senior Night. She went straight to the basket and drained three-pointers to end with 13 points. Her ventures in the paint cost Auburn free throws. William finished for 6-of-6 from the line.

With 2:38 left in the final quarter, MSU’s starting five were called out for their final regular season home game. Their time had come to an end. Upcoming Bulldogs subbed in and sealed the win.

Schaefer promised to donate $10,000 to the Starkville Boys and Girls’ Club if the attendance record of 92,400 would be broken. The fans surpassed the record, finishing with 113,814 attendees. Donations from the surrounding community added an additional $36,000 for a total $46,000. Another fan promised a $5,000 check to land on Schaefer’s the next morning.

A teary-eyed video tribute to the seniors and team manager closed out the regular season finale. The community donations exemplified the tight-knit community that Mississippi State represents. The family-oriented atmosphere is what kept MSU players in good hands.

“This is what makes Mississippi State so special,” Schaefer said. “These people want to support people in a community with great causes. They don’t have to do it. This is who we are. It’s going to help this organization in so many ways. I couldn’t be prouder to be a small part of it.”

In the 2017-2018 regular season, the quartet played in harmony. The deeper into their career as a Bulldog, the more they began to solidify a strong chemistry in Starkville. Their dutiful performance continued to infiltrate the city of Starkville, with sold out crowds helping fuel its fierce alter ego, StarkVegas. These seniors have had the best of both worlds: A place where they could grow as student athletes in a city full of supporters to nurture them.

“I’m proud of the impact our players have had in this community,” Schaefer said. “This makes it worthwhile for me as a coach.”

A love for women’s basketball has blossomed in the heart of Mississippi. This love will carry on and amplify the Bulldogs as The Hump will host the first and second rounds of the 2018 March Madness tournament.

This team will go down in history as the most winningest seniors to ever step foot into the Humphrey Coliseum. This may be the end of the road for four seniors, but the Mississippi State hosting parades, fans meeting their Final Four-bound team at 1:35 a.m. last season and little girls coming to see their senior guard Homecoming Queen and in tiaras was a beginning.

One final game remains for Mississippi State. A win at Kentucky Sunday will complete their first-ever undefeated regular season and stretch out the SEC’s longest win streak. The game will be aired on ESPNU at 11 a.m. C.T.

“I’m anxious to take ‘em,” Schaefer said. “I’ll be shocked if we’re not ready to play. We’re have to be ready. There’s no doubt about it, but I think we’ll be ready.”

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