Three-time SEC player of the week, Mississippi State University’s Teaira McCowan was the focus of the University of Arkansas’ defense, and their focus to limit her was successful. However, this opened up opportunities for the rest of No. 5 MSU’s players to rain jumpers, and the Bulldogs cruised to another blowout SEC victory.
McCowan has been on a tear recently, and in response, Arkansas (10-5, 1-1 SEC) ran a matchup zone defense with two to three players on McCowan at a time. This left three, sometimes two, players to guard the four MSU (16-0, 2-0 SEC) players on the perimeter, leaving MSU guards Victoria Vivians, Morgan William, Roshunda Johnson and Blair Schaefer with wide-open jump shots on the way to a 111-69 victory.
The quartet made Arkansas pay for leaving them open, combining for 74 points.
Head coach Vic Schaefer said these four players will have to step up if teams keep playing against McCowan the way Arkansas did tonight.
“If people are going to back off those four,” Schaefer said. “They are probably going to pay the price.”
It was Blair Schaefer’s night at the Hump, as MSU honored the senior from Starkville. Blair Schaefer showed up and scored 14 points, making four three-pointers to help spread out the Arkansas zone.
With the year McCowan is having, MSU can expect more teams to run zone defenses trying to contain her. When teams run a zone defense, they stay inside the arc, leaving openings for three point shots. The best strategy to combat a zone defense is to pass the ball quickly in order to pull the zone apart, and that is what MSU did.
Another notable stat from the night is the amount of shots MSU assisted on. MSU had 25 assists on the night, when teams run a zone, the strategy to beat it is to pass the ball quickly to try to pull the zone apart. Do you think this paragraph should go earlier?
MSU’s leader in assists for the night was Johnson, who got a double-double throughout the night with 13 points and 10 assists.
“I love to find my teammates, and I am confident that when I pass them the ball, they will knock it down,” Johnson said.
Vivians, a senior from Carthage, led MSU with 29 points. She scored efficiently, going 13-20 from the field, and 3-7 from behind the three point line. She also grabbed nine rebounds. Vivians was honored before the game for reaching 2,000 career points earlier in the season.
“I have scored a lot of points in my career, so I just take the award and move on to the game,” Vivians said. “I came out to play, and to try and help my teammates in anyway possible.”
MSU’s final score of 111 points is the first time MSU has scored more than 100 points in a SEC game. The previous highest score for MSU in an SEC game was 98 in MSU’s double overtime loss to Vanderbilt University in 2005.
MSU will travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for their next game taking on LSU. The game is on Sunday, and tip-off is set for 1 p.m.