Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

William, Vivians Lead State past Longhorns 79-68

STARKVILLE – To win a four-quarter contest Mississippi State needed win just one quarter, big. The Lady Bulldogs did.

#10-ranked Mississippi State used a dominating second quarter to take control and earn a 79-68 victory over visiting and #8 Texas. The Bulldogs broke a tied tally through one quarter with a 26-9 runaway in the second, and maintained enough of that margin the rest of the evening.

State emerged from this Humphrey Coliseum battle of top-tens 4-0, and returned the favor of last year’s loss in Austin. Texas left 1-2 with a second top-ten road loss this season.

Instead of downplaying the polls, the Bulldogs were honest. They used the rankings as just a little more motivation for the rematch.

“It means a lot,” guard Victoria Vivians said. “They were ranked higher than us so we were playing somebody that obviously thought they were better than us. We have a lot to prove.”

Coach Vic Schaefer considered something proved, both for the team and the program. “This was a great opportunity and a great test for us early in the season to showcase Mississippi State basketball and what that entails.”

The real showcase was that decisive second period. Though, the Bulldogs did score something of a success playing the bigger Texans to a first-quarter draw of 16-16. State even had a four-point lead briefly in the period which answered any concerns about nerves or intimidation.

The opening period also showed who was going to carry the home club. Point guard Morgan William and Vivians each had four points after some early misses. For all-American Vivians it was just a warm-up.

Because she torched Texas for ten second-quarter points, making five of eight shots.

Or, four more baskets than the whole Longhorn lineup. State adjusted effectively to Texas’ first-quarter attacks at the rim with better defensive positioning, and far better pressure on the ball. The result was ten Texas turnovers in just that one period which Bulldogs turned into nine of their points.

UT Coach Karen Aston knew where the game got away. “In the second quarter in particular they fed off the crowd and their energy fueled the run. They were tougher than us.”

Schaefer said it was much more than Vivians leading the takeover, because State’s star sat over four minutes. Williams rested for six. The Bulldog bench out-shone their starters and the opponents for what their coach called a “special” quarter.

“It started with Jazzmun Holmes, she came off the bench and had three steals in that time. And Blair (Schaefer) and Ro (Roshunda Johnson) were fabulous, they made big shots for us.” By contrast Texas was just 1-of-11 in the period as forced perimeter shots missed.

“To be up 17 at halftime against them is a tremendous credit,” Schaefer said.

Texas earned some credit as well with a 7-2 run to open the new half. By 3:57 the lead was down to eight points which proved as close as the Longhorns could get. William took over, whether disrupting the Texas offense out-top or drawing fouls on the offensive end. She would end up 13-of-14 at the free throw line and lead all scorers with 23 points.

“I need to have the ball in my hands,” William said. State needed this too when Texas threw on full-court pressure. They did force enough MSU mistakes to chip the margin away, to a low of nine points twice in the last 79 seconds, but no closer.

Fittingly William accounted for State’s last points and for good measure stole the final UT inbounds pass. Despite the double-digit margin Texas did shoot a bit better overall and finished with a ten-rebound lead.

“Today our defense was just good enough against a great Texas team,” Schaefer said.

Vivians had to watch the closing minutes after fouling-out with 19 points. Guard Dominique Dillingham added ten for State. Texas was led by their point guard Brook McCarty with 19 points. “It was a good matchup,” MSU’s William said, “I just wish we wouldn’t keep switching buckets!” Guards Ariel Atkins and Brianna Taylor added 18 and 12 points.

“It was a heck of a basketball game,” said Schaefer. “To me that felt like a NCAA Tournament game, it was a knock-down, drag-out.” The MSU coach himself had to be helped to and from postgame as a severe gout attack nearly knocked him down, but not out of a home contest attended by 7,764.

“I’m just proud we were able to do this today in front of the country and show everyone what Starkvegas and women’s basketball is all about,” Schaefer said.

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