Jerica James goes up for a shot for MSU in an earlier game this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Mississippi State's Jerica James is beginning to get the point.
The sophomore earned her sixth start of the season, the first in Southeastern Conference play for the Bulldogs and played 36 minutes in a 60-46 loss to South Carolina last Sunday.
James didn't know she was going to play that much against the Gamecocks, but had determined prior to the game she was going to give MSU a 100 percent effort.
"I did know I was going to give it my all and do the same things that we needed to win the game," James said after scoring a career-high 14 points. "I did think I was going to come out, play hard and that's what it led to."
James has been splitting point guard duties for the Bulldogs with junior Katia May.
The reason MSU coach Vic Schaefer gave James so much playing time on Sunday was her ability to carry out the offensive plan and only had two turnovers.
"I thought J.J. was a warrior and played awfully well," Schaefer said. "She executed our offense.
"J.J. doesn't need to play 36 minutes. Neither one (of the point guards) do, but she was doing things the way I wanted done and Katia wasn't. That's the only way I know how to put it."
Schaefer was proud of the way James competed and even though she hit only six out of 17 shots from the field, he didn't see many bad attempts.
"She might have had to take two (bad shots) at the end of the shot clock, but that comes with being a point guard," Schaefer said. "A point guard is never going to have a great shooting percentage because she has to be the cop out for the other four when the shot clock is running down.
"She might have had to take two bad shots, but of her 15 good shots, they were good shots."
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley thought James did a good job of taking what the defense gave her in terms of shots and "knocked them down."
"We lost her a few times in zone and she hit some 3s," Staley said. "We thought we'd see her a bit more than the usual starter and anticipate her getting a lot of minutes and rightfully so. She did a good job of running their basketball team."
James saw action in 29 of the 30 games for the Bulldogs as a freshman last season. The North Little Rock, Ark. native earned her one and only start against Arkansas on the road. She scored her previous career-high in that game of 12 points.
After showing a glimpse of what she could do on Sunday, James now moves on to the next challenge.
The Bulldogs host Florida on Thursday and Schaefer has already challenged James to build on what she has accomplished.
"I told her in the locker room, 'OK, you got 15 good looks and made six of them, what does that tell you?' She said, 'I've got to get into the gym,' and I said, 'that's right.' Again, it's having an understanding and realizing."
James knows what she has to do in order to get ready for Thursday night.
"There is always room for improvement," James said. "Getting into the gym is what I'm going to do."
MSU made strides from the first SEC game to the second. After falling 92-41 at Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs only lost to the Gamecocks by 14 points.
James believes it was "a major step" in the right direction of the team and now it must build on it as she does.
"We've got to come out with the same mentality and same attitude that we came out with (Sunday)," James said. "We need to keep lifting up our teammates, cheering them on and let them know that when they make a mistake, that you come back and do something right. If we can carry that over and have another couple of good practices like we had prior to this game, it will be the same Thursday."
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