Friday, when MSU takes on the University of Virginia, will mark almost eight months since No. 4 Mississippi State University women’s basketball upset No. 1 ranked UConn in the Final Four.
There will be a Final Four banner ceremony before the game, but Blair Schaefer, a senior guard from Starkville, is determined to stay focused on the game once the moment of celebration passes.
“It will be cool to just have everyone come out, and just be a part of and reminisce on something so special is really cool,” Blair Schaefer said. “But we are also going to have to be able to shut that door, and get ready for Virginia within a couple of minutes.”
Head coach Vic Schaefer is looking forward to Friday night as a start of a new era, but is concerned about the younger players.
“For us it is a new day, new age, new team, we are different. We have four senior guards which I think is a good place to start,” Schaefer said. “I won’t worry if they are ready, but I will worry about some of our younger players understanding a game plan, how to game plan, and the importance of a game plan.”
Schaefer thinks his team can be fun to watch if they avoid turnovers, and said the team has good bonds in certain areas. He believes it will take some time for younger players to learn the little things about what he wants and about playing hard.
“I think this team can be fun to watch offensively if we don’t turn the ball over, and we got some chemistry at certain parts of the floor,” Schaefer said. “I’m always anxious to see how hard we play, I think we got kids who are learning to play hard. There is a whole other level for them to go to to even have a chance to play hard.”
Opening up against Virginia is a tough start of the season for MSU, but all the games MSU plays this season will be, as they shift from being the hunted instead of the hunter. Something the players will have to get used to.
“It’s a heck of a team to have to open with, it is going to challenge us right away, and we will get a great indication of where we are,” Schaefer said. “Again this team is going to have to accept that the responsibility that the target is bigger than it has ever been on them.”
As for the opposition, Blair Schaefer knows patience will be key to defeat Virginia’s zone defense.
“I know they play a really big zone, they are long, they are tall, they are going to get their hands on a lot of balls, so we need to start ball fakes this Friday,” Schaefer said. “We also need to attack the zone because if we are going to be patient we will get a good shot every time.”
MSU will know a lot more about themselves after this game compared to an exhibition, but it is important to remember the team who dons Maroon and White Friday will not be the same one who finishes the season.
“Our kids are at the point in their careers where they want to play against good people, so we could all walk out in the gym and beat some three name directional school by 50, but we wouldn’t know anything about our team,” coach Schaefer said. “I think we are going to find out about our team on Friday night, because they are going to be challenged. That team is well-coached, and they are highly skilled.”
The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. and is the back end of a season opening doubleheader. The men’s basketball game is the front-half of the doubleheader against Alabama State University starting at 5:30 p.m.