Mississippi State bounced back from an upset loss last week at Missouri to rout visiting Ole Miss 79-51. The Bulldogs got back on track and are 17-2, 4-1 SEC.
“I was anxious to see how we’d respond,” Coach Vic Schaefer said. “And obviously we did in a big way.” In a very big way; the winning margin of 28 points was the largest ever for a Bulldog team in the four-decade series. It’s a series that has gone State’s way now ten of the last dozen meetings with nine-straight wins in Starkville overall.
Never mind they’ve dominated, though. “It’s Ole Miss,” guard Morgan William said. “And I don’t want to lose them while I’m here in my career.”
The Rebels left 9-9, 1-4. “We got beat by a good basketball team,” said UM Coach Matt Insell, whose squad is in the midst of a stretch facing ranked opponents. “Is it a final score difference between the two teams, I don’t think so at all. But that’s what happens. I think when you get to Oxford it will be a lot different.”
The Bulldogs weren’t exactly themselves this night. Leading scorer Victoria Vivians (18.0ppg) was off all evening and out of much of it with foul issues. She ended up 3-of-11 shooting for eight points, though she did contribute nine rebounds in 25 minutes.
Also, reliable guard Dominque Dillingham struggled with 2-of-11 shooting herself and had just one assist in 37 minutes. In a lot of league games such showings by these team leaders might have been crippling.
Instead, everyone else raised their games, William more than most. The 5-5 point guard immediately attacked the Rebel posts for four quick points and finished with 16. Nine of her points came at the free throw line, in fact.
Center Chinwe Okorie was the more obvious inside force with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, much of her scoring on five offensive rebounds. She nearly doubled her 7.9-point average in the process. “I wasn’t looking to score, more to defend the home court. Rebounding and looking for my teammates.”
The wild card was backup post Teira McGowan. The 6-7 freshman did more than eat minutes, she ate-up Rebels with hard work in the paint and 5-of-6 shooting for ten points. All of it in just eleven minutes off the bench.
“I’m really proud of my players,” Schaefer said. “I thought they played extremely hard. I thought we came out and punched first, unlike the other night. And we kept punching the first half.” William and starting forward Ketara Chapel (4 of 4 for eight points) threw the first punches. And when Vivians came to the bench after a forced shot and foul, guard Kayla Nevitt came off it to stick two jumpers for five points as the Bulldogs built a fast 13-4 lead.
“I thought Morgan set the tone for how aggressive we were going to be getting to the rim,” Schaefer said. “Talk about big for us, Kayla and Ketara played really well.”
The Rebels started out cold, missing seven of eight shots. Some State miscues and turnovers left enough breathing room to rally though and by the quarter-mark it was a 17-15 game. But the Bulldog frontcourt caught their own breath and scored eight combined points to begin the second quarter.
Insell twice popped off his seat to complain to one ref who on the second chance gave the technical the coach was looking for. William made the two extra free throws between shooting the regular two, for four total points and a 29-18 lead. Vivians finally got on the board with an inbounds trey, and just before the half ended Dillingham stuck a pullup jumper to make it 39-23 at the break.
Vivians added five fast points in the third period to expand the lead to 18. The Rebels gambled on a trapping defense and it worked much better, as Mississippi State had a string of turnovers—forced or not—and got entirely out of offensive synch.
But Ole Miss did not use nearly enough of the possessions and got no closer than 13. A three-point play by Okorie, and a three-point shot from William, kept the home team in control. With a 21-point margin in the fourth quarter Okorie scored off another rebound; then guard Jazzum Holmes snuck in to steal the inbounds pass under the goal and make it 67-42.
Forward Breanna Richardson returned to action after missing two games with a concussion, and showed up big in the fourth quarter. She scored off putbacks herself, but having blocked a shot on one end got downcourt for the fastbreak feed and layup.
“It’s nice to have Breanna back,” Schaefer said. “We’ve missed her, she brings some toughness and rebounding to the table.”
McGowan’s three-straight buckets pushed the margin to its maximum of 31 points. Ole Miss got 14 out of guard Shandricka Sessom and ten more by guard Madinah Muhammad. But the Rebels shot just 34% for the evening and were whipped on the glass 46-29. State’s prowess at offensive rebounding paid off with a 22 to 11 bulge in second-chance scoring.
An announced crowd of 7,128 watched the win. “The atmosphere was electric,” Schaefer said. “But our kids have earned that.”
The Bulldogs are at Georgia this Thursday, before hosting #2-ranked South Carolina on Sunday at 4:00.