No. 2 MSU women defeat Kentucky

MSU head coach Vic Schaefer watches his women's team in basketball action.
Staff Writer

No. 2 Mississippi State came into the 2018 season with just two Southeastern Conference women's basketball teams left to overcome.

MSU head coach Vic Schaefer had never beaten the South Carolina Gamecocks before taking down coach Dawn Staley’s crew last Monday in front of 10,769 Bulldog fans. A little over a week later, he knocked off the second thorn in his side when the Bulldogs beat Kentucky 74-55 on Sunday afternoon.

It was an accomplishment that State senior Victoria Vivians not only wanted to get for her coach, but herself as well.

“I didn’t want to go my whole college career without beating them,” Vivians said. “It felt good to come out with the win.”

To add to the relief of beating those two programs for the first time in Schaefer’s six years, the Bulldogs recorded their second-straight sellout at Humphrey Coliseum.

Prior to the 2017-18 season, MSU had one sellout in school history. It’s now becoming routine in Starkville.

A third sellout was announced on Friday when next Sunday’s Texas A&M game also saw tickets exhausted. A fourth is imminent on the Auburn game to end the regular season home slate.

“If I was a fan, I’d be in here every night,” Schaefer said. “(The players) are just really special. I think our fans are very educated and they love these kids and this program. That’s part of building a program, but you’ve got to give these kids all the credit because of how they respect and honor the game.”

Getting to a 26-0 overall record on Sunday wasn’t going to come easy for the Bulldogs who had to fight off a pesky Wildcat bunch. Maci Morris put 21 points on the board for Kentucky before fouling out in the fourth quarter, but the rest of her teammates were held to single digits.

Meanwhile, Mississippi State had no problem getting points from their top three scorers.
Vivians threw in 23 points for the Bulldogs and pulled down seven rebounds. Teaira McCowan had 21 points and 16 boards in the win and Roshunda Johnson had 17 points and five 3-point field goals.

Johnson worked Mississippi State through a relatively cold first half with five 3-pointers and 15 points. Despite the 35 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes, the Bulldogs were up 40-22.

“I thought Roshunda was very, very special in the first half,” Schaefer said. “She bailed us out of some bad sets and made some shots for us. It changes things when she and Blair (Schaefer) are making shots.”

Morris took Johnson’s place in the third quarter scoring 11 points in the first 5:30 and helping the Wildcats close that 18-point lead down to nine at 50-41.

MSU got control of the game late in the quarter with a 56-43 lead and the deficit never got back down to single digits.

“Morris came out and made some shots in that third quarter,” State point guard Morgan William said. “I think our defense just wore on them as the quarter went on from there. We played better on-ball defense.”

The Bulldogs (26-0, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) also had double figure scoring from Johnson, who had 17 points. William recorded eight assists in the win and failed to turn the ball over.

Kentucky (12-14, 4-8 SEC) did out-rebound MSU 39-33 after falling behind 11-6 on the boards in the opening quarter.

Schaefer had to ask media members post game who the Bulldogs had next on the schedule as the coach truly does take it one game at a time. What's next is a road trip to Vanderbilt on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. where the MSU can clinch a share of the SEC regular season championship.