Bulldogs moving on: MSU back on court after week of pondering Bibby's injury

Bre’Amber Scott (23) and others on the Mississippi State bench celebrate a successful moment during last week's win at Humphrey Coliseum over South Carolina. (Photo by Jason Cleveland)

Staff Writer

It’s been a full week since coach Vic Schaefer had to run over to one of his players lying on the court with no knowledge where he, or she, would go from there.  

Chloe Bibby tore her ACL in her left knee in the first minute of the basketball game against No. 15 South Carolina and the Mississippi State Bulldogs had to adjust on the fly for her absence. While Schaefer hated it for his sophomore forward, who had worked so hard to improve her game, he didn’t lose confidence in his players.  

The No. 7 Bulldogs responded by beating the Gamecocks for the second-straight season at home with the 89-74 win. It was win No. 21 in a row for regular season Southeastern Conference games, but he had to face the facts that Bibby would be lost for the season afterwards.  

“The thing that Chloe provided was stability,” Schaefer said. “She was leading us in minutes played and had the ability to go get you six or seven rebounds a night. I think you lean on the whole and not just one or two parts. Everybody has to step up. We’ll see what we’re made of. I think it’s how you respond in these situations that truly defines who you are as a team.”  

While the Bulldogs rallied for Bibby in that game and played, perhaps, one of their most complete games of the year, they now spent their first week preparing for the rest of the season without Bibby’s presence.  

As MSU travels to Gainesville, Fla., Thursday night to take on the Gators (5-13, 1-4 SEC), they’ll be without a player averaging almost 28 minutes a game, 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-leading 36 3-pointers at a 45 percent clip.  

Four-time SEC Player of the Week Teaira McCowan had 26 points and 24 rebounds against South Carolina proving that she could step up and dominate the game when needed. She’s averaging 17.3 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest for the year as the frontrunner for the SEC Player of the Year honor.  

McCowan said that she and the rest of her teammates will have to take another step, but she’s confident they have the depth to do so.  

“We can go with many different lineups and we practice that all the time,” McCowan said. “It’s not just one person that we lean heavy towards. Everyone knows that we have to step up. We lost Chloe. She was our 3-point shooter and was good at what she did, but now it’s time for someone else to step up.”  

Schaefer feels the exact same way as his player. The coach has been harping on the work of his younger players all season and now is the time for those players to get their chances in increased minutes.  

Sophomore Bre’Amber Scott came off the bench  and had 11 points in 27 minutes against the Gamecocks and is a likely candidate to take Bibby’s spot in the starting lineup, though Schaefer said that the lineups may vary upon matchups.  

Andra Espinoza-Hunter is also due more minutes as she’s now the team-leader in 3-point shooting at 20 makes for the year and has been averaging 15.7 minutes a game with 6.9 points. Everyone will get their shot including going with a bigger lineup that has Jessika Carter and McCowan both playing the post at the same time.

“I have a lot of confidence in those kids and our entire bench,” Schaefer said. “Xaria (Wiggins) is practicing better and Nyah Tate’s coming along. I think we’ve got a lot of kids over there that can step up. I’m not concerned about my team right now or who’s going to step into that role. I’ve got a lot of really good players.

“I could be dead wrong, but I just feel really good about where our preparation is.  We’ve got a lot to choose from. We’re heartbroken for Chloe, but at the same time, this is athletics and it provides opportunity. It’s time to step up.”

MSU (17-1, 5-0 SEC) puts that winning streak on the line against Florida with tip time at 6 p.m. The game can be seen only on SEC Network+.