STARKVILLE, MS - The Bulldogs had a significant size advantage over the Lady Demons and that was evident in the early possessions of the game. With 6:29 to go in the first quarter, State had raced out to a 13-2 advantage. Bulldog senior center Chinwe Okorie was already half way to a double double with seven points and five boards with just under four minutes gone.
After one quarter of play, six Bulldogs had scored and it all seemed to be working for State. With a fairly balanced attack, the Bulldogs led 31-9 on 12 of 23 shooting. State held a two rebound advantage at the first intermission. It felt much worse.
"We only had two days of practice and our kids had five days off. I expected there to be some rust, but I was pleased with how we played overall," Schaefer said. "We had 11 turnovers and that's too many. We forced 32 and I like that number."
At the 7:55 mark of the second quarter, fan favorite Dominique Dillingham made her first appearance of the evening. The talented senior made her presence felt on her first defensive trip. With the Demons looking to in bound just right of the scorer's table, Dillingham provided pressure that led to a turnover. Victoria Vivians caught the errant pass and was fouled on her drive to the basket. She would make one of two.
The next Demon trip, Dillingham tied up a Northwestern State shooter and got the jump ball call as the Humphrey Coliseum crowd roared their approval.
"She played 19 minutes," Schaefer said of Dillingham. "You see what she provides out there defensively from a health standpoint. She was in the right place on help numerous times when she's out there. That is something we miss when she's not out there."
The State lead would swell to 33 with 1:53 to go in the half. After consecutive empty trips that produced some ragged play. Schaefer signaled for time out. The veteran coach met his team on the floor and looked to right the ship despite the 46-13 score.
"He just (told) us to get it together," Vivians said. "We're #5 in the country, play like it. When we have those bad possessions, it's not good. He tells us to get it together and play like the #5 team."
The chance to reset worked as the team began to play up to their billing. The Bulldogs would open the third period on a 9-0 run, which saw the Northwestern bench emptied as the outcome was already determined.
State would continue to press and bomb from three point land despite their lead. All-American candidate Vivians found the range and pushed the score to 60-15 with 5:55 to go in the third. Blair Schaefer would add to the Demons' misery with a three ball of her own as the advantage neared fifty.
The visitors would continue to be on the business end of the the lopsided contest with the Bulldogs holding a 76-19 lead after three quarters. The only question remaining involved the century mark on the Bulldog side of the scoring ledger.
With just under a minute to play, Jazzmen Holmes would let one loose from three right in front of the Bulldog bench. The home crowd came alive as the State ladies steamrolled ahead 102-28.
The final tally was 106-30, which proved to be the second largest margin of victory in school history. An 86 point win is still the school's best scoring result coming in 1982 over Judson College.
While the Bulldog offensive showing was stellar, the defensive effort was equally as impressive. Northwestern State entered the contest averaging 71 points per contest. Their 30 points were a season low. Demon guard Beatrice Atturo averaged over 18 points in the previous ten games, but was held to just four on Wednesday night.
On the other side of the ledger, Vivians went for 22 leading all scorers. Bulldog forward Breanna Richardson netted 21 on an impressive 10 of 12 from the field
"We scored 106 points tonight and (Roshunda Johnson) didn't play," Schaefer said. "We will have her Sunday. That's someone who can stretch it and shoot it a little bit.
"This team is confident. Their teammates are confident. That's a result of a fourteen game schedule where we played just two games at home and (against) a really good schedule. I am confident in them, because of that. I have seen how they have prepared. I have seen how they go into a ball game and they love to play the game."
The Lady Bulldogs' love for the game, their team and fans is evident. Despite school being out of session, Bulldog fans showed up in droves to support their nationally ranked team, Over 6,300 tickets were taken on $1 hot dog night, but the main attraction was on the hardwood floor.
"They've earned these fans," Schaefer said. "I want to thank our fans that came out tonight. To have 6,352 fans come out for our non-conference game on December 28th, is a great testament to what they've built here, the team has built here. It's fashionable to be at the women's basketball game. It's the in thing to do in Stark Vegas."
Mississippi State will be back in action on Sunday as the LSU Lady Tigers visit Humphrey Coliseum for the SEC Opener for both squads. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 PM.