A much improved defensive effort contributed to Mississippi State University’s 91-58 win over the University of Southern Mississippi Saturday afternoon.
In total, the team forced 16 steals and 28 turnovers. Vic Schaefer said he was pleased with his team, however, he was frustrated with the number of turnovers his team had.
“I have to be patient with them. They are trying, and I have to remind myself they’re trying,” Schaefer said. “They’re compliant, they’re trying to do the right thing, but sometimes they get caught up in the moment and their decision making is not really good. I think, for me, I’m going to have to be really patient, I think for a while.”
Defensive effort is one of the most important aspects of Schaefer’s team and his offense revolves around forcing turnovers. Chole Bibby, a junior forward from Warracknabeal, Australia, said the team still has a lot to learn but they are playing hard.
“We were hustling and playing hard,” Bibby said. “We got a couple steals and really just ran with it. We still have a lot to learn on offense with execution and things, but it all comes from our defense.”
It took a little over 14 minutes for Promise Taylor, a redshirted sophomore center from Issaquah, Washington, to make an impact on the game as Schaefer said he was pleased with how she played. Taylor went through a six-month stretch where she was immobile as she had surgery to fix a foot issue.
“That’s a long time to do nothing, so you’re talking about a lot of rust build-up,” Schaefer said. “It’ll be baby steps with her, but I thought she made some progress tonight. The fact that she can get up and down the floor for 14 and a half minutes is pretty good.”
USM’s head coach Joye Lee-McNelis thanked everyone involved at MSU for their efforts to grow the game. Lee-McNelis said she remembered when she could count on her hands and feet the number of people in attendance when she played at USM. The crowd for the game was 7,591.
“I just want to say thank you to your fans, the administration and your people for supporting women’s basketball,” Lee-McNellis said. “You have transformed the culture of basketball in the state of Mississippi."
The team plays for their fans every single time they step onto the court. Schaefer said the fans make the team special.
“We owe it to them to give them the best product we can give them—our best effort every night,” Schaefer said. “No matter who we’re playing against. We’ve got a brand that we’re proud to be a part of, and at the same time, we’ve got a brand in women’s basketball that we have to uphold.”