Switcheroo: Lineup change works for MSU

MSU's Blair Schaefer
Staff Writer

Many wondered what coach Vic Schaefer was thinking with his lineup changes pre game with win-or-go-home stakes in the NCAA Tournament’s first round.
On the bench for most of the first quarter was Dominique Dillingham, Victoria Vivians, Breanna Richardson and Chinwe Okorie. In their place were players that they’ve relied on off the bench all season and the moment wasn’t going to be too big for them.
Turns out, coach Schaefer’s decision was a stroke of genius.
Mississippi State exploded in the second quarter and never looked back against the Trojans of Troy on its way to a victory at Humphrey Coliseum 110-67.
Schaefer wasn’t ready to give away his trade secrets. He was just happy it worked.
“It worked fine," Schaefer said. "We’ll just keep it at that. There’s so much that goes into putting yourself in this position. When you get to this point in the season, you certainly want to make sure everyone is focused and where they want to be. I was really proud of my team.”
The Bulldogs (30-4) were dominant on both ends but held Troy’s high-powering offense in check and out-rebounded them 61-48.
Blair Schaefer was the spark for MSU for most of the first three quarters. The junior guard, who prepped at Starkville High School, scored a career-high 21 on 6-of-9 shooting with four 3-pointers, five rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes.
Roshunda Johnson was also a factor in the starting lineup and had 13 points with three 3’s of her own. Ameshya Williams had 15 points off the bench, five rebounds and three blocks.
“Blair and Ro were really outstanding," coach Schaefer said. "They shot the ball well and really shared the ball well. We had 57 bench points and they had 34 points between them and they usually come off the bench.”
Richardson had 15 points in the game and Vivians added 13 of her own.
Blair Schaefer had the first 11 points in the game for the Bulldogs as they jumped out to an 11-2 lead, but the Trojans hung in the game into the second quarter and got within two points. After pushing the lead out to nine with over 6 minutes left, MSU stepped on the visitor’s throats.
“My shots were just falling," Blair Schaefer said. "I’ve been in the gym and my teammates give me a lot of confidence. I’m always told that my window of opportunity is not going to be very big, so I took my window that I had (Friday) and it just worked.”
The State defense clamped down on the fast-paced threat from Troy and went on a 21-1 run that was culminated with a Vivians’ 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Bulldogs outscored the Trojans 29-6 in the second quarter to jump out to a 56-27 lead at the half that only expanded.
MSU started the second half with the same five that began the game and they pushed the lead out to 88-46 at the end of three quarters with a 32-point period. From there, the Bulldogs let off the gas ever so slightly to cruise to victory.
State hit a season-high 12 3-point shots in the game with Blair Schaefer and Johnson hitting seven of those. The Bulldogs added seven blocked shots with four of those coming from Teaira McCowan, who earned her first start of the year and connected for nine points and 13 rebounds.
The 110 points were the most in NCAA Tournament history as the Bulldogs won their first round game for the seventh-straight time in eight tournament appearances. The score also put MSU at 2,579 points for the season, which is also a new school mark.
On Sunday, State be playing for a chance at its third Sweet 16 appearance and second straight when it meets up with No. 7 seeded DePaul, which dispatched Northern Iowa 88-67.