Schaefer doesn't want his Bulldogs to become complacent

Mississippi State women's head coach Vic Schaefer visits with his team during a timeout.

Staff Writer

It’s been over three years since Mississippi State last lost a non-conference game.

Along the way, the Bulldogs have beaten 44-straight non-conference teams during that run and they’ve won 39-consecutive games in the regular season total and most of those haven’t been close. Despite that, head coach Vic Schaefer continues to coach “against the ghost” in his own words.

Schaefer is happy with the No. 6 Bulldogs’ 93.8 points per game offensively and the 46 points per game differential with their opponents. However, he knows there will come a day when MSU isn’t on top of its game and there’s going to be a team waiting there to pounce. For his team to compete for championships, they have to be ready for every opponent, no matter the record or the ranking.

“We haven’t done anything yet,” Schaefer said. “That complacency thing really concerns me as a coach. We’ve been the higher ranked team in every game we’ve played so all we’ve done is what we were supposed to do. My concern is always just staying humble and staying hungry. I remind our kids every day to focus on the process, not the result.”

The Bulldogs handled their first test extremely well last Sunday at No. 10 Texas. The Longhorns have been struggling with injuries, but the talent was still there and MSU handled them like they have most of the teams they’ve played in the first eight contests.

By the end of the first quarter, State was up by nine points and they never looked back as they pushed the lead all the way out to 28 points before coasting to a 67-49 win. It was an impressive victory for the Bulldogs (8-0) who are having to prove themselves all over again to the national media and those that follow women’s college basketball after having to replace four of the starting five from last year’s Final Four run.

Sophomore forward Chloe Bibby has been one of the players that have filled holes left by the legendary foursome of Victoria Vivians, Morgan William, Roshunda Johnson and Blair Schaefer. The Bulldogs are actually on pace to surpass last season’s record-breaking offense and Bibby has been leading the charge with 2.8 3-pointers per ball game which is fourth in the SEC and she leads the conference and is seventh nationally hitting 22-of-38 (57.9 percent) from long range.

At Texas, Bibby played a team-high 40 minutes and scored 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting. It’s a testament to the way that Schaefer has grown accustomed to trusting his sophomore.

“I think if I’m doing my job out there and playing a little defense, he’s developed that trust in me from practice,” Bibby said. “Obviously, I was doing the right thing in Texas. I was doing whatever I could to help the team win.”

As good as Bibby and her teammates have been to this point, they’re about to have to be much better.

Up next for the Bulldogs on Thursday night is a second-straight top-25 matchup as they bring in No. 15 Marquette (6-1) who was last season’s Big East Champion and is set to do it again this year. The Golden Eagles have also been a high-scoring team early on in the season with 87.4 points per game and they’re hitting 38 percent of their 3-point shots. Schaefer credits that to a guard-heavy lineup built with five seniors that all average over double figures led by Allazia Blockton who is up to 19.1 points per game.

“They’re a well-coached team that plays extremely hard, they’re very athletic and, boy, can they shoot it," Schaefer said. "There are some concerns on the floor matchup wise. They’ve dominated their opponents. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

“I’m not only worried about how good they are, I’m worried about my team and if we’re satisfied. That’s a bad recipe that can make for a long night.”

MSU counteracts that with four seniors of its own and some more size. All-American Teaira McCowan continues to pace the Bulldogs with 18.6 points and 11.8 points per game and recently passed LaToya Thomas for the school record with 1,109 career rebounds.

Texas A&M transfer Anriel Howard has been a huge boost for State with 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game and Bibby is averaging 12.6 points herself, 5.4 boards and 1.9 assists. Senior guard Jordan Danberry averages 11.1 points to cap the double digit scorers for the Bulldogs.

MSU has the tools to win at a high level once again this year but the mental part of the game will be the difference before the team gets to Southeastern Conference play. After Marquette comes a game on the road at Southern Miss and then a West Coast swing against No. 3 Oregon and Washington.

Schaefer will need his players playing at the top of their game each week.

“We’re just trying to get better, (and) work hard every day,” Schaefer said. “We’re trying not to be complacent and not be satisfied which is really hard sometimes with young people. Just try to put your head down and go to work.”