Bulldogs play well with new starting lineup
Coach Vic Schaefer had plenty of time to sit and decipher what went wrong in three of the last five games heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Mississippi State went from 27-1 to 29-4 and an Southeastern Conference Championship fell through its fingers in the regular season and the conference tournament, so the veteran coach went back to the drawing board.
Schaefer knew 49 points against a team like South Carolina would not cut it in the Big Dance so he shook things up.
What came from the massive shakeup was 202 points in two days against Troy and DePaul. Both were comfortable wins and both saw multiple players emerge as stars to lead the team to victory. None of those players were All-SEC standouts Victoria Vivians or Morgan William.
“We’re playing some different combinations right now (but) it’s not like we just threw them together," Schaefer said. "I’ve been seeing them in practice for a while. I’m not so reliable on one or two kids right now. We’ve got a lot of kids that are doing good things right now.”
Coach’s daughter, Blair, went off in her two-game run at home. Against Troy, Blair knocked down a career-high 21 points and answered that with 18 more on Sunday against DePaul hitting eight 3’s in two games.
Coach Schaefer has heard plenty from those outside the program about his daughter’s abilities. Of course, he’s seen it first-hand her whole life and is a big reason she’s hit big shots throughout her career. To see her come through when her name was called was exciting to her dad.
“I won’t be able to out-run the number of people in this world wondering what the heck I’ve been doing with her,” coach Schaefer said. “She’s had two really good games back-to-back making shots. I was concerned with her about the matchup defensively and it never bothered her.”
Most impressively from the weekend was the work from backup point guard Jazzmun Holmes. The coast native has been used to spell William in her first two seasons but never was as effective as she was in the second round.
Holmes dazzled in 25 minutes of play with a career performance that included 14 points, six assists, two steals, two rebounds and just one turnover. With a smile on her face throughout those 25 minutes, she was just another player that grabbed her opportunity and ran with it.
“Coach just always talks about having poise and playing with a chip on your shoulder,” Holmes said. “I just felt like they couldn’t guard me. It felt like high school again and nobody could guard me.”
From the first tick of the clock that Holmes was on the floor, she brought energy. On a full court press off of a dead ball, the sophomore guard tipped the inbounds pass and laid it in for two points. William was out of the game with a banged up finger and just played sparingly the rest of the way because of Holmes’ production.
It was another example of Schaefer’s coaching style and going with what works. It was also an example of how engaged his bench has become in a game.
“That first steal she got – she got that because she sat there and watched it (from the bench),” Schaefer said. “You want them to be learning and see what’s happening so they can come in and make a play. That shows me that kid is engaged. That’s what our team needed (Sunday).”
Dominique Dillingham played her final game at Humphrey Coliseum on Sunday becoming the fourth player on the current roster to score 1,000 career points. Yet for all that she’s accomplished in her career, her final two games at home were spent coming off the bench.
There were no complaints by her and her teammates, however, as they all want to win.
From top to bottom, the Bulldogs dominated, so for anyone questioning coach Schaefer’s madness this March, he’s doing just fine.
“He’s not crazy,” Dillingham proclaimed to her coach’s approval. “I think we have 10 starters. Anybody can start. Blair and (Roshunda) Johnson deserved to start as much as me or (Vivians). We have a lot of different combinations in practice so it’s no different.”