Kayla Rogers never has considered herself a "big girl."
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State women's basketball team continues to find a way to get things done.
MSU coach Vic Schaefer will grant you the Bulldogs don't always earn aesthetic points, but he usually loves the defense and the intensity his players bring to the court every game.
On Sunday, No. 11 MSU mixed defense and intensity with clutch plays by Victoria Vivians, Morgan William, and Dominique Dillingham to earn a 52-42 victory against No. 21 Missouri before a crowd of 4,521 at Humphrey Coliseum.
STARKVILLE -- Jordan Frericks knows the tape doesn't lie, so she realizes the No. 11 Mississippi State women's basketball team likes to take charges.
After playing MSU once earlier this season and watching more film of the Bulldogs for a refresher prior to Sunday's matchup, Frericks felt No. 21 Missouri had a good game plan. The key was to go in low and under control against the Bulldogs' aggressive defense.
But Dominique Dillingham has found a way to defy scouting reports. It doesn't matter if you beat her off the dribble once because she is going to adjust and beat you to the spot next time and sacrifice her body to take the charge.
STARKVILLE -- You can almost sense Vic Schaefer cringe when he talks about his team's defense.
If you look at the statistics, it would be difficult for you to tell there has been a drop-off in the Mississippi State's women's basketball team's play. The Bulldogs are still second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense at 56.1 points per game.
But Schaefer, whose nickname is "the Secretary of Defense," knows better. He also admits he has sacrificed some defensive drill work in practice to work on offense, just as he hinted he might do a few weeks ago.
While it might pain Schaefer's trained eyes to notice the lack of execution on the finer points, he acknowledges there has been a benefit.
"The bottom line is you've got to score more points than the other team," Schaefer said Friday. "We've spent a little more time on offense of late and I'd like to think that it has paid off a little bit."
Schaefer hopes that work continues to pay dividends at 2 p.m. today when No. 11 MSU (20-4, 7-3 SEC) plays host to No. 21 Missouri (18-5, 5-5) at Humphrey Coliseum.
Tyrone Shorter sets the tone in every way for the Noxubee County High School football team.
Whether it's his desire to keep the program's field house spotless or his edict that his players wear a buttoned-down shirt, a tie, and a blazer on Fridays during the season, Shorter wants his players to look and to act like one of the top programs in the state of Mississippi.
Resiliency is a word that suits Brenton Spann.
After missing his senior season as a member of the New Hope High School football team, Spann could have given up and searched for a different path without the sport he loves. Instead, Spann tried his best to stay in shape and to focus on his academics in case he ever received an opportunity to return to the football field. He admits that road wasn't easy and that there were many times he doubted if he would realize his goal.
Wednesday was a beginning for Chris Deloach and the rest of the Columbus High School football program.
A year ago, Randal Montgomery arrived from Hazlehurst High with championship designs for a program that wasn't accustomed to success. After three-straight trips to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 3A State title game and a championship in 2012, Montgomery realized hard work, buy-in, and dedication were going to be essential ingredients to the transformation of the Falcons' program.
MACON -- Jeffery Simmons didn't want to wait until the last minute.
If he could have, the Noxubee County High School five-star defensive end would have made his college decision on the first day of the recruiting process to end it as quickly as possible. But Simmons soon found himself in a predicament of his own making because the schools he picked -- Alabama, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss -- all had plenty to offer him, and even more fans who wanted him to join their football programs.
Tyshon Spencer always thought basketball was the sport for him.
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Spencer had the size and the athleticism to pave a future for himself in the sport.
But 6-4 student-athletes are easy for football coaches to spot in the hallways, especially at Class 1A schools, so it didn't take long for West Lowndes High School football coach Anthony King and other members of the coaching staff to ask Spencer to come out for the football team.
At 8:25 p.m. on Wednesday April 15, the Mississippi State women's basketball team officially became the hunted.
On that night, MSU coach Vic Schaefer said to the crowd at the team's annual banquet that the Bulldogs would face a different road in 2015-16. In many ways, the 2014-15 season was a coming out party for MSU. It rode wins over Mercer, Arkansas State, West Virginia, and Western Kentucky to a Preseason Women's National Invitation Tournament title that served notice to the rest of the nation. Those victories were part of an 18-0 start that helped the Bulldogs climb back into the national rankings and sent them on their way to a return trip to the NCAA tournament.
"Season saver" and "gauntlet" carry extra meaning with a month to go before the Southeastern Conference women's basketball tournament.
STARKVILLE -- Turn the page.
Rock n' roll fans likely have sung along with Bob Seger's classic on nights they have been wandering on a lonely road somewhere what seems like a million miles from home.
Seger sings about the weariness of traveling from city to city and being in the spotlight on a stage in front of thousands of fans in the song that was recorded in 1972 and released in 1973. The live version, released in 1976, has stood the test of time and served as an old friend to many commuters in need of a pick-me-up on a long trip.
STARKVILLE -- Chinwe Okorie has put the backboards at Humphrey Coliseum through a lot in the last two-and-a-half seasons.
From First Deepwater of the Zenith League in her home country of Nigeria to Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, Massachusetts, Okorie's resume doesn't have the level of experience of many of her peers on the Mississippi State women's basketball team.
As a result, the 6-foot-5 center had a bigger adjustment to make than her classmates when she arrived as a member of coach Vic Schaefer's first recruiting class in Starkville. Okorie's transition to Division I basketball stalled in her freshman season as NCAA questions about her eligibility forced her to sit out the season.
STARKVILLE -- Only those who truly know Vic Schaefer best can determine how set he is in his defensive principles.
If the Mississippi State women's basketball team isn't playing player-to-player, it isn't playing defense. Schaefer has preached to his players about getting up the line and into passing lanes and getting up close and personal with their opponent on every possession to make every trip an ordeal.
When you have had as much success as Schaefer has had using that style of defense at Arkansas, Texas A&M, and MSU, it's easy to see why he is so steadfast in his desire to rely on it.
But Schaefer didn't think twice Thursday when forced into a situation to make a change.
Unsolicited recruiting help might be the best assistance a high school senior looking to play a sport at the next level can get.
Little did Michael Ledbetter know that he had not one or two but three friends and members of the Northwest Mississippi Community College men's soccer team talk to their coach about him. Charlie Baldwin must have liked what he heard from former Caledonia High School standouts Chandler Lester, James Longmire, and Robert Mims because it didn't take long for him to contact Ledbetter.
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer knows all about the history of the Tennessee women's basketball programs.
In more than 25 years in Division I basketball, Schaefer has witnessed many of Tennessee's 35 combined Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championships, 18 NCAA tournament Final Fours, and eight NCAA national titles. He knows the power of the Orange and how quickly the sounds of "Rocky Top," the unofficial fight song for Tennessee, can wear on the ears of someone competing against the Lady Volunteers.
Holly Warlick insists she wasn't calling out fans of the Tennessee women's basketball team last week.
Instead, the longtime assistant coach and fourth-year head coach of the Lady Volunteers wanted to stand up for her team after a 79-66 loss at No. 3 Notre Dame on Jan. 22.
"We're hearing a lot of negativity from our fans and from people," Warlick said. "Hey, guys, give this group a break. They're playing as hard as they can. Are they playing great? Absolutely not, but they're putting it all out there."
Since then, Tennessee has defeated Vanderbilt and lost to Kentucky to move to 12-7 and 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference. It finds itself in a new situation as it prepares to take on Mississippi State (17-4, 4-3) at 8 tonight (SEC Network) at Humphrey Coliseum.
Coming off a strong performance in front of a record crowd at Humphrey Coliseum, there would be no better way for the Mississippi State women's basketball team to take the next step than to make more history Thursday night.
On Sunday, then-No. 10 MSU lost to No. 2 South Carolina 57-51 before a crowd of 10,626, which exceeded the listed capacity of Humphrey Coliseum by 126. The crowd was the biggest in MSU's history, the largest to see a women's basketball game in the state of Mississippi, and the fourth-largest in the history of the Hump.
The Columbus High School soccer teams will try to build on a history-making season tonight.
Buoyed by second-place finishes in Class 6A, Region 2, District 2, the Columbus High girls and boys will take on Clinton in the first round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A playoffs in a doubleheader that is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. It is the first season in a number of years that the Columbus girls (7-10, 4-2 district) and the Columbus boys (3-9-3, 2-4) have qualified for the playoffs in the same season.
STARKVILLE -- The chances were there Sunday.
Four years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the Mississippi State women's basketball team could compete with the No. 2 team in the nation. A 51-point loss to Vanderbilt, a 53-point loss to Kentucky, and a 48-point loss to Texas A&M were some of the potholes Vic Schaefer and his coaching staff had to navigate en route to a 13-win season in their first year in Starkville.
But MSU has left those disappointments in the rear-view mirror and slowly climbed back into relevance in the Southeastern Conference and in the national rankings. The latest step came with another record and pushed No. 10 MSU tantalizingly close to a victory against its highest-ranked opponent since 2000.
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