Finding a way: State women pull out victory over Georgia
This year’s battle of the Bulldogs between No. 3 Mississippi State and Georgia looked much like it did a year ago for the better part of four quarters.
MSU lost that game in Athens 47-43 in a game that it struggled to find any offensive rhythm. That continued into its 2017 edition of the matchup and State needed a spark.
Victoria Vivians and Dominique Dillingham went a combined 2-for-22 from the field and Morgan William played just 20 minutes. As has been the case all season long, MSU found other players to step up.
Those players were backup post players Teaira McCowan and Ketara Chapel. Both players scored 14 points in 27 minutes off the bench and combined for 18 rebounds and 11-of-15 shooting as MSU outscored the visitors 19-7 in the fourth quarter for the 58-49 win.
“Before we get caught up with how off it was, we held them to 49 points,” State head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I’m proud of how we played defensively. We were able to tough it out on not our best night. Ketara wasn’t going to let us lose. (McCowan) fought all night.”
It was MSU’s school-record 12th Southeastern Conference win and its 13th-straight home win, also a school record. That streak was seriously in doubt from the very beginning.
Mississippi State missed its first eight shots from the field and were 2-for-18 in the first quarter with McCowan’s two makes providing the only scores from the field. After the first 10 minutes, MSU trailed 11-6 in a defensive battle.
Things didn’t get much better in the second quarter but the home-standing Bulldogs did shave three points off the lead and trailed 21-19 at the half with momentum swinging their way late in the quarter. It was a miserable first half for MSU, which shot 21 percent from the field and had nine of its 19 points from McCowan.
The home team looked to be ready to take over after an inbounds steal and layup by Jazzmun Holmes energized the crowd and Chapel followed with a bucket that tied it at 39 with 1:14 left.
A 3-pointers on the other end by Georgia silenced the crowd, however, and the visitors led 42-39 heading to the final period.
As she did in the third quarter, Chapel was there to make a play again.
The senior forward came scored five-straight points for MSU to provide the first lead since 2-0 with a 48-46 margin with over 3 minutes left. From that point, State was in full control. It used a 13-0 run to finish off the Georgia Bulldogs and take the nine-point win.
“Coming out and responding like that was awesome,” Chapel said. “We had to regroup during halftime and see what we were made of. I needed to go out there and play. I came off the bench, fixed what was broke and played my role.”
Georgia scored just three points in the final 3 minutes.
The difference in the fourth was the three bench players McCowan, Holmes and Chapel. It also came from the free-throw line where State hit 23-of-27 shots. William hit all six of her shots from the line and scored 11 points in just 20 minutes. Vivians had 10 points on just 2-of-15.
“At some point, we’ve got to find a way to make better shots and not take as many shots,” Schaefer said of Vivians’ off night. “It will be addressed and we’re going to fix it. The way you fix it is you get in the gym. You should not have a confidence problem right now.”
MSU shot 16-of-48 (33 percent) from the field and made just 3-of-18 from 3-point range. The team also got beat on the boards 37-35 and in the paint 28-22.
Schaefer wasn’t sure how his team won the game, but he took it nonetheless.
“God presents challenges to us every day," Schaefer said. "We’re going to give God glory for number 26 and learn from it. This team is not immune from bad games. It was a really frustrating night, but it was one I saw coming.”
After that scare, things don’t get easier for State. The Bulldogs (26-1, 12-1 SEC) now travel to College Station, Texas to face off against Texas A&M on Sunday. Game time in Texas is set for 4 p.m. on the SEC Network.