Stretch will get State women ready for SEC play

Vic Schaefer

Staff Writer

It's a stretch that Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer believed will best prepare his team for Southeastern Conference play.

After playing Texas on the road and Marquette at home, the Bulldogs face Southern Mississippi tonight, Oregon on Tuesday and Washington next Thursday on the road.

"You want to get your kids' attention of what's coming," Schaefer said. "This is just like the SEC play. We're just getting it three weeks early. Let's get ready and start preparing so when we get back from Christmas, we know what it looks like."

Schaefer's challenge in scheduling is getting teams to come to Starkville. That's partly the reason four of the five games during the stretch are on the road.

MSU's November slate had Southeast Missouri State, Virginia, Lamar, Coppin State, Furman, Jackson State and Little Rock. The Virginia and Little Rock games were on the road.

The reason Schaefer set up the schedule like he did was because of the youth on his squad. He wanted to get several players experience and confidence early.

Schaefer knew playing at Virginia in the second game of the season was going to be risky, but said it helped having transfers Anriel Howard and Andra Espinoza-Hunter eligible.

"Virginia was the wild card in knowing they had three starters back, including 6-9," Schaefer said. "We had them early in the second game and obviously Andi (Hunter) played well that day and really our whole team played well, but not knowing those two kids (Hunter and Howard) were going to be here, I thought it was important to get some young kids some important playing time."

Obviously, the Bulldogs have passed all tests so far. They are 9-0 and ranked No. 5 in the latest polls.

There won't be anything easy for MSU at Southern Miss, at Oregon and at Washington. Outside of the competition, Schaefer said there is one benefit to playing on the road before Christmas and one thing that will set his mind at ease.

"The thing about finishing on the road in pre-conference is we can send the kids home straight from the game and get them home quicker," Schaefer said. "Playing here at home on whatever night at 7 o'clock, I'm not going to let them leave. Jazz (Holmes) is going to want to drive home as soon as the game is over. I'm not going to want her to drive four hours to the coast (Gulfport) and I'm sure not going to want Teaira (McCowan) to drive 10 hours to (Brenham) Texas and they'll both do it if I let them, so just being able to play on the road, we can get those kids home in a safe and timely manner."