Although Sunday wasn’t the last home game, it was Senior Day, and the Ags honored the three seniors, Curtyce Knox, Taylor Cooper, and Alyssa Michalke before the tip.
The Ags started Hillsman, Howard, Cooper, Williams, and Knox. MSU countered with Chinwe Okiorie, Victoria Viviens, Breanna Richardson, Dominique Dillingham, and Morgan William. MSU scored first, but the Khaalia and Danni got a small lead for A&M. The tide turned when the Bulldogs started feeding backup post Teaira McCowan in the paint. Like the game in Starkville, the A&M D was slow with help defense and McCowan ended up with 6 points in the quarter. That accounted for a lot of the 6-1 run to end the quarter.
Coach Vic also played full court pressure from the start. The Ags handled it reasonably well at the start, but it was also clear that A&M was using a lot of energy just getting the ball up the court.
MSU 12, Ags 11
Miss State would hang on to the lead as the quarter started. The Ags were able to stay within a possession until Vivians got her first bucket of the game with 6:56 left in the half. Vivians had beaten the D on a drive on the right side of the lane. She missed the layup high off the glass, but McCowan managed to get the rebound in a crowd while falling down and passed back to Vivians while sitting on the floor. 18-13 MSU.
Curtyce was the main offense in that stretch. Hitting a reverse early in the quarter and scoring a pair of FTs to make it 18-16 after getting Okorie to commit her second foul. Earlier, McCowan had committed her second. With 4:41 to go in the half, Okorie drew her third foul trying to keep Khaalia from posting up. Vic had to go to a smaller lineup.
With both posts out, it looked at first as if the fresh legs would make up for the reduction in size inside. Ameshya WIlliams scored in the paint and a 3 from Richardson made it a 7 point lead after an inbounds turnover. It looked like deep trouble when Khaalia missed a layup on a nice feed and A. Williams looked like she had scored on a putback. But a foul was called on Anriel before the shot (probably should have been a continuation). Curtyce came up with a steal on the inbounds play and ran out for fast break layup, drawing a blocking foul on Blair Schaefer. The FT made the play a 5 point swing. 23-19, 3:14 in the half.
After Dillingham missed, Danni brought the ball up court and pulled up 5-6 feet beyond the arc as the MSU defender was retreating. The 3 pointer cut it back to a 1 point lead and then the Ags took the lead as Khaalia started exploiting the absence of Okorie and McCowan. A&M was up 3 with 16 seconds remaining in the half. Miss State worked the ball to Vivians, who jumped into a retreating Danni to draw a very questionable 3 shot foul. 3 FTs tied it up.
30-30 at halftime
Curtyce led everyone with 11 points at halftime. Danni and Khaalia each had 9. McCowan led the Bulldogs with 8 points and 6 boards. A&M only turned it over 3 times.
The second half started off with a 9-0 Bulldog run. It was an 8 point after the media timeout, when Taylor Cooper hit the first 3 pointer of the second half. A second 3 by Coop cut it to 48-44, and then Danni hit a 3 to make it 48-47. The Ags took the lead with just over a minute left in the quarter on a crazy shot by Curtyce (probably should have been an and one). And they were far from done. The Ags would score 6 more points in the last minute before Vivians used a strong move on the right side to finally get the Bulldogs off the 48 point mark.
Ags 55 MSU 50 after 3.
Curtyce got the lead back to 7 with a layup after she and Morgan William dueled on the baseline for several feints and moves. Miss State fought back to get to 55-59, and then Danni hit another Steph Curry-like bomb from way beyond the arc with 7:02 remaining. Miss State cut it to 3 before Danni hit another step-back 3 pointer after a Howard offensive board to make it a 65-59 lead with 5:37 left.
But Miss State increased the defensive pressure and Vivians started finding more gaps to drive into. With 2:18 left, a 3 pointer by Ketara Chapel would retake the lead. Hillsman answered but McCowan got free in the lane to put MSU up 68-67. Help was late.
On the next possession, Curtyce went down hard after being fouled by Jazzmun Holmes with 1:04 left. She came up limping but stayed in the game. Curtyce hobbled to the right corner to and let Danni run the play. Williams pulled up at the left edge of the FT line and missed a jumper. As the Bulldogs set up a play, McCowan posted up on the left block. Once she got the ball it was what Coach Blair calls “hope they miss defense”. She turned into the middle of the lane, shot over Khaalia, and got a friendly bounce off the rim to put Miss State up 70-67. Watching the replay on my DVD, you can see Danni pull Curtyce to remind her to defend a different position in the zone than her usual spot on the top of the 2-3.
Timeout A&M to move the ball to the front court. Taylor’s inbound pass into the backcourt was off target, though, and it seemed like it might be a turnover over the end line. Tyce was able to run it down and set up a play. The Ags ran a 3 man weave with Tyce handing off to Danni, who gave it off to Coop. Danni looped around the baseline to try to get open in the right corner but Miss State had that covered as Cooper gave the ball back to Tyce. Knox for some reason penetrated and pulled up inside the arc. Miss State boxed out everyone and the rebound went to Morgan William, she smallest player on the court. She got the ball to Vivians and several more seconds ran off before A&M could catch her and foul her. Vivians hit both FTs to ice the win. Blair put Jasmine Williams, Aaliyah Jackson, and Alyssa Michalke in for Tyce, Danni, and Coop to finish the game.
Final score Miss State 72, Ags 67.
It was a heck of a game. Obviously disappointing to lose on Senior Day again, but both teams played well and hard overall.
It was a game of runs ... we just happened to get the last run - Vic Schaefer
Yes, there were mistakes:
We ran the wrong play on the last two possessions. When I went for the 3 at the end both of my post players were in the wrong position. We had it set up for Danni, but both post players in the wrong position; it’s hard to run a play if we’re having that much problems mentally upstairs. That’s my job; is end of game situations that my team is going to execute down the stretch. We’ve done it all year; we didn’t do it tonight. - Blair in the postgame
As a nonexpert fan, I’d love to hear what Coach meant about where the posts were supposed to be. It did seem like Khaalia was trying to set picks for Danni and Curtyce way too far from the basket, and I’m not sure where Anriel was supposed to be.
- Danni led the Ags with 23 points. Curtyce had 19 points and 8 assists. For large parts of the game it seemed like Curtyce was carrying the team and almost willed the Ags to the win. Khaalia had 14 points and Cooper 10.
- Howard was going to have problems against the size and talent of MSU, but it seems to me that teams must be learning something about how to play Anriel. Howard was limited to 2 points and 6 rebounds.
- Victoria Vivians led all scorers with 25 points. McCowan had a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds. McCowan is already a very good post; Blair talked about how she’s like Mercedes Russell for the Lady Vols in that once she has the ball, the shot will be too high for Khaalia to block. Nine different Bulldogs scored.
- S. Carolina Lady Gamecocks
- Thursday February 23, 2017 8PM CST
- Reed Arena
- TV: SEC Network Radio: 1150 AM/102.7 FM
This will be the final home game of the regular season. As the game at Reed was getting started, S. Carolina was in the process of getting upset by Mizzou on a last second layup by Lindsay Cunningham. When the schedule came out back in the Fall, most fans expected Miss State and S. Carolina to be losses, with S. Carolina being the tougher matchup. That’s based on the twin towers Dawn Staley puts on the floor. As good as Okorie and McCowan are for Miss State, they aren’t on the floor at the same time.
- 22 6-5 Jr F A’Ja Wilson (16.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg) was an All American her first two years and was a finalist for the Naismith, Wooden, and Wade awards. Wilson has blocked 53 shots so far this season.
- 41 6-4 Sr C (13.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg) Alaina Coates was all SEC and a Wade Trophy Finalist.
- 10 6-0 Jr G Alisha Gray (12.8 ppg) is a transfer from N. Carolina.
- 03 6-2 Jr G Kaela Davis (11.6 ppg) is a transfer from Georgia Tech. Davis can go off for a big scoring game, but has been criticized for shot selection. She leads the team in FG attempts.
- 52 5-10 Fr G Tyasha Harris (5.1 ppg) who has taken over the starting spot from 5-6 Jr Bianca Cuevas-Moore.
S. Carolina’s weakness this year, to the extent that they have one, has been guard play. Losing two-time SEC player of the year Tiffany Mitchell and veteran Khadija Sessions has hurt. Gray, Davis, and Harris are all talented, but frustrated Gamecock fans should remember that this is the first year any of them have played for S. Carolina, and adapting to a new team isn’t always easy.
The loss to Mizzou may have knocked S. Carolina out of a 1 seed in March, although the SEC tourney could certainly change things. For the Ags, Mizzou winning puts them in a tie with A&M for 4th in the SEC. Missouri has the tiebreaker thanks to the head to head win, and with S. Carolina behind them, the Tigers are likely to win out. Kentucky is a game ahead of A&M but has Miss State and S. Carolina remaining.