Jan 17, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Mississippi State Lady Bulldogs head coach Vic Schaefer instructs his team against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half at Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports
The Mississippi State Women’s Basketball team ran their record to 18-0 on Thursday night after their 72-57 win at Humphrey Coliseum over the Arkansas Razorbacks. The 18 game winning streak is the longest winning streak in school history, and it is their first 3-0 start in SEC play in school history. With each and every win, the fans of Mississippi State are slowly turning their attention to a team that might put together one of the best they have ever had at the school.
But Women’s Basketball isn’t the most beloved sport at most schools, and it isn’t a sport that Mississippi State has been a traditional powerhouse. So it is safe to assume that most of you aren’t very familiar with the coaches and players on the team. With that in mind, let me introduce you to the 14th ranked Mississippi State Women’s Basketball Team.
Vic Schaefer is the type of coach that Mississippi State fans want leading their basketball team. He is a passionate guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve while on the sidelines. He also stresses defensive intensity from his players, and that is the hallmark of his teams. This year’s squad is no different. After the game against Arkansas, the Bulldogs lead the SEC in FG% defense and 3 Point FG% defense. This is his third year at State and he has a wealth of experience. He led teams at Arkansas and Texas A&M to 11 NCAA Tournaments. Scott Sticklin hasn’t had to hire a bunch of coaches, but Vic Schaefer is evidence that he can make a good hire. The program is in great hands with Schaefer.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
The team has made a serious step forward in large part because of Freshman Victoria Vivians. Victoria Vivians is one of the best players to ever play in the state of Mississippi at Scott Central High School. She set the state record for points scored in a career by a high school player her senior season, and would have had a shot at the national record had the near 600 points she scored as an 8th grader for the high school team counted towards it. Why it doesn’t, I don’t know. There doesn’t seem to be a good explanation. Vivians led the state in scoring her senior season with a 45 point average. Despite all that, she wasn’t invited to play in the McDonald’s All American Game.
She picked up where she left off now that she is playing on the college level. She leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 15.5 points a game and second on the team in rebounds at 5.6 a game. She just finds a way to score the ball. She should only get better.
The Veteran Leader
Martha Alwal is the veteran leader on the team. She is a senior and the defensive force in the middle. The 6-4 Senior Center leads the team in blocks and averages just under 2 a game. She no longer starts, but she still receives a lot of playing time and is third on the team in minutes played. When Schaefer needs his players to get a stop, you can bet that Alwal is going to be on the floor.
Possibly the most dynamic player on the team is Freshman Morgan William from Shades Valley High School in Birmingham. The 5’5″ point guard is the second leading scorer on the team, the team leader in assists, and second on the team in steals. She does all of that despite coming off the bench and playing right at half the game. At one point during last night’s game, Mike Bonner tweeted this out about the creative playmaker.
It’s not hard to argue that there is a more exciting basketball player on the campus right now besides William. Her offensive production is somewhat surprising because she was known in high school for being a defensive stalwart. Mississippi State always seems to play with a little bit more energy when William is on the court.
The Tone Setters
Joining Victoria Vivians in the starting lineup are Sophomore Keatra Chapel, Sophomore Dominique Dillingham, Senior Jerica James, and Sophomore Chinwe Okorie. Schaefer has committed to bringing in a deep talented squad, and the starting lineup is a reflection of that. Of the six top scorers on the team only Vivians and Chapel are starters. The other four leading scorers all come off the bench. Schaefer likes to use his starters to set the tone and play through Victoria Vivians. These four girls along with Vivians put the clamps down defensively on the other team and don’t allow them to get in to a rhythm.
The Bench Stars
Along with Morgan William and Martha Alwal, Sophomore Breanna Richardson and Senior Kendra Grant make up the primary players that Schaefer brings off the bench in his normal rotation. William as mentioned earlier is the second leading scorer on the team and Richardson is third. Both players keep the opposing team from focusing too heavily on Vivians and free her up to make plays.
You may not have been familiar with our Women’s team, and this should give you a better feel for what they’ve done. I hope you also noticed the number of times I used the words Sophomore and Freshman. The backbone of this team is very young. Women aren’t allowed to jump to the WNBA as underclassmen, so they play all four years at the collegiate level. That means as good as the team has been this season, it’s likely the best is yet to come.