When MSU goes on the road to play the University of Virginia, a team they hosted last year and only beat by a score of 68-53, it will be a much different team as Roshunda Johnson, Morgan Williams, Victoria Vivians and Blair Schaefer have all graduated.
The team will not only be different from a personal standpoint, they will also be different in the way they score points. Teaira McCowan, a senior center from Brenham, Texas, is one affected by the change in scoring, as the focus by the opposing defenses have shifted inside.
“They do tend to sag more and be closer to help-sides on me,” McCowan said. “Like coach said, we have things to work on, so the more that we get in the gym and shoot, the more they will get off of me.”
The team has instead focused to a transition game where McCowan is responsible for rebounding the ball, and while she will score a lot of points in the paint this season, she said the change in the style of play is not hard for her.
“No, it is not difficult for me,” McCowan said. “I get the rebound. I kick it up the court. By the time I get to half court, they’ve already put the ball in, so I just get back on defense.”
Head coach Vic Schaefer said he would like the team to become better offensively when it comes to sharing the basketball, something they did in the previous two seasons when they made deep runs to the NCAA championship game.
“I think sharing the basketball is what we’ve all grown accustomed to around here in the last few years,” Schaefer said. “Last year’s team, the team the year before, those kids all shared the basketball. We made that extra pass where people enjoyed the assists as much as they enjoyed scoring.”
Part of sharing the ball and pushing the tempo will fall on the shoulders of point guards Myah Taylor, a freshman guard from Olive Branch, and Jazzmun Holmes, a senior from Gulfport, who are filling the shoes of last year's Morgan Williams. Holmes said she is prepared to fill those shoes.
“The past few years have prepared me for this moment,” Holmes said. “I’ve prepared for it every day. Me and Myah (Taylor) are competing for that spot, and that’s just what it is. He wants us to run and transition. That’s how we’re going to score our points. That’s what we need to do, get out and transition and run.”
It is not only the point guards who are responsible for pushing the tempo of the team, it is also the responsibility of the guards like Anriel Howard, a graduate student from Atlanta who plays forward, who will be responsible for pushing the pace of play.
“Like Jazz (Holmes) said before, we work on that every day,” Howard said. “He (coach Schaefer) always wants us to go and transition every chance we get. If not, we just go into our secondary. There’s definitely an emphasis on this for us.”
Howard is an example of the amount of depth this team will have this season, something Schaefer is thankful for as he said it is a luxury to have depth on a team.
“Well, depth is always a luxury,” Schaefer said. “It’s always a bonus, and our depth is young. Those kids, as coaches, we have to get them ready. It’s nice to have depth, but I need my depth to play well.”
MSU started off their season in the right direction with an 88-53 win over Southeastern Missouri on Tuesday night, and will now travel to Virginia for a game on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. Schaefer said he is excited to take his team on the road to test them early in the season.
“I enjoy taking my team on the road,” Schaefer said. “It will be a great measuring stick for where we are right now. It certainly is a game, when you go on the road and play a team from the ACC, it is important that we go in there and play well.”