Sophomore Chloe Bibby (55) had a career-high 24 points Thursday night in the No. 7 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 80-71 victory against Georgia in a Southeastern Conference game at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Mississippi State Athletic Media Relations
January 11, 2019 10:29:11 AM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer is fond of saying he has the best coaching staff in the nation.
Associate head coach Johnnie Harris provided proof of Schaefer's claim Thursday night when she suggested No. 7 MSU push forward Anriel Howard to the corner in its dribble-drive offense in an effort to move Georgia's size, especially 6-foot-3 forward Caliya Robinson, out of the middle of the lane.
Harris' tweak to the game plan proved to be just what MSU needed.
Jazzmun Holmes scored all seven of her points in the final six minutes to help push No. 7 MSU to an 80-71 victory against Georgia in a Southeastern Conference game before a crowd of 6,493 a Humphrey Coliseum.
"I tell you all of the time we have the best staff in the country, and that was a great offer," Schaefer said of Harris raising the possibility of moving Howard to the corner in a timeout. "It really opened some things up for us and it allowed us to finish. Jazz made a big shot in the lane late that gave us a little breathing room."
Schaefer said MSU moved Howard, who is 5-11, to the corner in hopes that Georgia would follow her. Georgia, which also played player-to-player defense and switched on MSU's dribble-drive, followed Howard to the corner. The move proved doubly effective because Robinson (26 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots) and Jenna Staiti (five points, five blocks) combined for nine of their team's 11 blocks. Holmes was the most effective at capitalizing on the absence of a 6-3 forward and a 6-6 center in the lane by scoring all of her seven points in the fourth quarter.
Holmes said she used "counter moves" to get into the lane and beat the switching defenders after MSU used Howard as a decoy in the corner.
Howard, who had 18 points, four rebounds, three assists, and four steals in 40 minutes, added a three-point play on a Euro step in the lane to kick MSU's lead to 72-68 with 2 minutes, 50 seconds remaining. Teaira McCowan added an offensive rebound putback and a free throw, and Holmes converted a runner and 3 of 4 free throws to help seal the deal.
"With me being on the wing and Jordan passing the ball off, or vice versa, they would switch off and Caliya is 6-4, and that was making it tougher for (Jordan) to finish)," Howard said. "(Going to the corner) helped out a lot and we ended up getting the shots off because (Caliya) was on me."
Bibby carries MSU
Coming off her poorest 3-point shooting effort (1-for-7) of the season against Kentucky, Chloe Bibby resolved to work even harder on her shooting to affect a change.
That work paid off as Bibby looked confident from behind the arc in pouring in a career-high 24 points. The sophomore forward was 8-for-13 from the field, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range, in a 40-minute effort to help MSU build a lead in the first half.
"Chloe started out a house a fire," Schaefer said. "She made some big shots for us early and got us going."
Even though Bibby missed only shot in the fourth quarter, her work in the first three quarters helped MSU hold Georgia at bay on a night when Jordan Danberry was 4-for-16 from the field and McCowan (7-for-16) wasn't as efficient in the post.
Bibby credited strength and conditioning coach Marci Hoppa for helping her during the offseason and through the start to this season. She also praised her teammates for having the confidence in her to elevate her game.
"I still need to be more consistent," Bibby said. "I just got in the gym and tried to get up those game shots, and my teammates helped a lot with that confidence piece in practice. I hope to keep that going."
More from McCowan
It's hard to quibble with a line of 18 points and 21 rebounds (13 offensive), but Schaefer said McCowan needs to be better, especially on defense.
"Teaira wasn't very good," Schaefer said. "She has some great numbers, but really defensively I thought struggled."
Still, MSU closed the game on a 15-3 run thanks to Holmes' flurry, five points from Howard (18 points, four rebounds, three assists, four steals), including a three-point play, and three points from McCowan, even though she didn't have a set play called for her down the stretch.
After the game, Schaefer said McCowan didn't have her contact lens in at the start of the game. When asked if he knew if McCowan put them in at some time during the game, he said he wasn't sure.
"I got to make sure she has her contacts in," Schaefer said. "That's not toughness. We ain't wearing our contacts in a ballgame. I will coach better there, too. I coach it all.
"For what we were trying to do and go against, they had 6-6 (Staiti) down there and she was giving T some problems. ... I think T was at a point where (she was like), 'Look, let me help us win in other areas. Let's get them to the rim.' That's kind of the decision we made, but I think she had some really good looks and I have to coach her better and teach her better and get her to make those. I have to do better. She has to do better, and she will. There is no doubt in my mind she will."
Schaefer continued his thought by saying he noticed Bibby, Howard, Espinoza-Hunter taking extra shots after the team's shoot-around. He said everyone needs to do that -- one through five. Schaefer said MSU's practice Friday was going to include sticks and pads to simulate taller players and to give McCowan a physical presence to feel as she goes up for shots. He hopes that work helps her overcome a night she went 7-for-16 from the field.
"We will get her back right because she is special, and she knows she needs to be better," Schaefer said. "I need her better on defense. I need her doing her job and I need her protecting everybody else. That is how you're the national defensive player of the year. You do your job and you protect the other four. I need her getting back to doing that."
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Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.