One final game in Humphrey Coliseum, that was the case for four 1-seed Mississippi State University (34-1, 16-0 SEC) seniors on Monday night in their 71-56 victory over 9-seed Oklahoma State University (21-11, 11-7 Big 12).
Blair Schaefer, Roshunda Johnson, Morgan William and Victoria Vivians played their last game at the Hump.
Regarding his seniors, head coach Vic Schaefer was emotional.
“I just love those kids, they meant so much to me personally, professionally,” Vic Schaefer said. "They’ve changed me as a man, husband, father and a coach.”
Vivians, a senior from Carthage, summarized her feelings it more succinctly.
“I’m going to miss it,” Vivians said.
All season Vic Schaefer bemoaned his team’s propensity for starting slowly on defense. This was certainly not a slow start, but certainly a sloppy one. Four turnovers in the first quarter led the Bulldogs to trail by four to start the second quarter.
They almost trailed by six had Morgan William not caught herself looking at coach Schaefer with five seconds on the clock, drove it to the basket and got two at the buzzer.
The game was back and forth in the second quarter with both teams playing fast, but ugly, basketball. MSU cleaned up the turnovers with zero in the second quarter while forcing two more from Oklahoma State, however, they were only able to come away with two points from those takeaways.
“(In the first half) it was hard to catch our second wind, (we) found it, and once (we) found it, (we) were able to kick it into gear,” coach Schaefer said.
There was more back and forth to begin the third quarter, but the Bulldogs were able to pull away with a 10-point lead going into the fourth. Thanks, in part, to another Morgan William two points at the buzzer. In reality, the difference in the third came down to offensive rebounds. In the first half, neither team offensively rebounded well, MSU had six and Oklahoma State had one. In the third quarter, OSU added only one more while MSU had six.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs never gave up the lead pushing it to 15 with 56 seconds left in the game.
“I think we played well for three and a half quarters,” Oklahoma State head coach Jim Little said. “They were quicker and more athletic at some positions than we were. We don’t have a matchup for (Vivians).”
About the fourth quarter, Schaefer said, "we tend to get our wind and the other team loses theirs.”
Junior center Teaira McCowan had a double-double with 21 points and 18 rebounds. Senior guard Victoria Vivians had 23 points, four assists and six rebounds. Senior guard Morgan William had 17 points, two assists and three rebounds.
“Morgan dictated the whole game,” Schaefer said. “She locked down and had a much better defensive game than she’s had in a while.”
The Bulldogs will now face 4-seed North Carolina State University in the Sweet 16 game at 6 p.m. Friday in Kansas City, Missouri. ESPN will broadcast it.