On Sunday afternoon, the No. 7 Mississippi State University Women’s Basketball team (3-0) put on an impressive performance in their win over state rival University of Southern Mississippi (3-1) by a score of 91 to 56.
Excellent play from guard Roshunda Johnson was the highlight of the afternoon. Johnson ended the game 11-20 with 29 points, four rebounds and three assists. Johnson said she was just trying to do her job to help her team.
“I just think in my mind that everyday has to be a great shooting day to help my team,” Johnson said.
The Bulldogs stifled the USM offense with their high-pressure full-court press defense. The defense caused 26 turnovers which led to 31 points. In addition, MSU had 23 offensive rebounds, which USM Head Coach Joye Lee McNelis said was a big difference in the game.
“Those are called free possessions to me, and that’s when you just give the ball to the other team, like Christmas,” McNelis said. “I’m just going to give you this gift and it being an offensive rebound you’re right there at the rim so you can just shoot it again.”
McNelis also added the Bulldogs four-guard formation caused a matchup nightmare. The dominating performance of Teaira McCowan (17,10) in the middle accompanied by red-hot perimeter shooters rendered USM’s initial zone defense useless as the Bulldogs scored 31 in the opening quarter.
MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said the four-guard offense is something he is still adjusting to, but is pleased with his team’s execution three games into the season.
“The four-guard line-up is evolving, but I think it’s here to stay,” coach Schaefer said. “Now it’s my job to figure out some more things we can do it with it to make us even better. It’s not something I was thinking about a month or two ago, but this is who we are, and I think it’s a tough match-up for people.
This new formation will also help this team create their own identity and separate them from the shadow of last season’s success. Senior guard Blair Schaefer explained this team is not trying to replicate last year, but in fact improve upon the success of last year’s team.
“We just realized what we lost last year in our four seniors that were great for us and we figured out how to not only fill the roles that they brought to us, but add on to what we brought personally last year,” Schaefer said.
The team chemistry was evident on both sides of the court. The senior guard said the chemistry on the court is contagious.
“If we can get one person going then we can get another person going then three, four and all five of us are on it,” Schaefer said.
Another key element to the Bulldogs high-scoring offense is attributed to the superior play by the point guards. Morgan William dishes out passes with clinical precision, already totaling 24 assists with zero turnovers. William also became the first Bulldog to reach 500 career assists during the game against SMU. In addition, junior point guard Jazzmun Holmes received high praise from coach Schaefer after her seven assists on Sunday.
“We have two point guards with no drop off with either one,” coach Schaefer said. “Lots of times if Mo [Morgan William] has gone an extended period, Jazz will step in and her jets are even faster, but both of them see the floor so well especially in transition and are able to find these two [Schaefer, Johnson] where they like to be.”
Despite the 35-point win, coach Schaefer said the team still needs to improve on their defense from the field.
“I am disappointed in our field-goal percentage defense,” coach Schaefer said. “Forty-six percent and 35 percent from three and I’ll walk in there and be madder than a wet hen over that.”
The Bulldogs will head on the road this week to play in the 2017 Cancun Challenge. MSU will play Arizona State University (3-0), Columbia University (2-2) and University of Wisconsin Green Bay (3-0). The challenge will start on Thanksgiving day.