Competition: MSU and DePaul women play in NCAA second round

MSU coach Vic Schaefer
Staff Writer

Coach Vic Schaefer had to leave the side court table in the middle of scouting DePaul and Northern Iowa on Friday morning.
The fifth-year head coach Mississippi State and his team were getting closer to its own game against Troy, but Schaefer had to step away because watching the execution from the Blue Demons of DePaul was making him physically ill. That’s how nervous MSU’s head man and his staff are about what’s ahead later today.
“The thing that impressed me was how hard they played defensively,” Schaefer said. “It’s hard to prepare in one day. We’ve got a big challenge.”
While the Bulldogs (30-4) had a game still ahead of them on Friday afternoon, the Blue Demons (27-7) was handling Northern Iowa with ease on their way to an 88-67 win. DePaul hit 53 percent of its shots in the game, including an 11-for-24 afternoon from 3-point range.
Most frightening about the Blue Demons is their production across the board offensively. Four players average double figures on the team this season led by Brooke Schulte’s 16.4 points per game. The biggest output on Friday came from Tanita Allen, who poured in a game-high 25 points hitting 9-of-11 shots and 5-of-6 from 3.
Schaefer saw a team that expected to advance in the tournament and none of the DePaul players saw a moment too big at Humphrey Coliseum.
“I just think they’re a really good basketball team,” Schaefer said. "(DePaul coach Doug Bruno) recruits winners. He recruits kids that know how to function in this environment. They’ve been there. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Aside from just being a really good team, the Blue Demons are battle-tested. DePaul has already played on the road against No. 1 Connecticut and hosted No. 2 Notre Dame. They’ve gone through the rigors of the Big East Tournament and come out of it with a 13-2 record and conference championship.
The Blue Demons have been to 15-straight NCAA Tournaments and are looking for their fifth Sweet 16 appearance during that stretch. Nothing that MSU does today will scare away Bruno and his players, but they know the challenge.
“It seems so long ago, but these girls have tasted the 6-7 and 6-5 size that is part of what makes Mississippi State good,” Bruno said. “It is only part of it. It is not about their size. (Victoria) Vivians and (Morgan) William are very talented guards also. They are a really good team.”
For the Bulldogs, they like their depth and production just fine themselves. Schaefer started four new players with Blair Schaefer, Ketara Chapel, Roshunda Johnson and Teaira McCowan joining point guard William against Troy. It paid off big time with Blair putting up a career-high 21 points in the game and MSU cruised to victory.
It remains to be seen whether or not those same four will be back out there in the lineup on Sunday, but they’ll be ready. Blair, especially, knows all about what DePaul want to do on the offensive end as every player on the floor is a threat to score.
“They have all five (players) that can shoot," Blair Schaefer said. "We have to play our style of defense keeping pressure while focusing on not getting back-doored and giving up easy layups. Our communication is going to have to be on point (Sunday).”
State is going for just its third Sweet 16 appearance in school history on Sunday, but it will be the second in a row if the Bulldogs can knock off the Blue Demons.
Game time at Humphrey Coliseum is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ESPN2. The radio broadcast can be heard in the Golden Triangle only on WKBB-FM 100.9.