November 12, 2017 12:55:14 AM
STARKVILLE -- Chloe Bibby has never lacked for confidence on a basketball court.
That confidence came in handy when she decided to leave Australia to play basketball in the United States.
In her debut, Bibby showed her game has a chance to transfer to her new country quite nicely.
Bibby scored 13 points and provided a big defensive presence Friday night to help the No. 7 Mississippi State women's basketball team beat Virginia 68-53 in the season opener before a crowd of 6,811 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"There is always some nervousness when you start with a new team," Bibby said. 'The big thing is letting the game to come to you. Once you make some plays, it makes you feel at ease. We had a great crowd, and they made this a lot of fun."
Humphrey Coliseum was rocking all night. The MSU men opened the doubleheader with a 96-68 victory against Alabama State. In between games, a banner was raised honoring the women's basketball team's trip to the 2016-17 national title game. MSU fell to South Carolina in national championship game.
Members of last season's team were honored before an emotional Vic Schaefer spoke to the crowd before the banner was raised to the rafters on the opposite side of the 1996 Men's Final Four banner.
"This is such a special night for this university," Schaefer said. "This is one of those moments in time you will always remember. It was a special team and a special time for this university. It's great to be able to share this with our fans. Mississippi State has the best fans in the country.
"A year ago, at the Final Four in Dallas, Mississippi State fans dominated. We made the environment special for all four Final Four teams, and extra special for our team in particular."
Schaefer told the crowd the banner would be the final acknowledgment of last season. After that, it was back to the business of trying to reach that lofty status again.
"It means a lot to be part of all of that," MSU senior guard Victoria Vivians said. "It shows you what hard work can do. It shows you our capabilities."
Vivians scored 22 points and had seven rebounds, two assists, a blocked shot, and a steal. The most pleasing number for Schaefer was an 8-for-15 night from the field.
"The focus is taking better shots," Vivians said. "It is really something I have been working hard on. On this team, I don't have to score a lot of points. I just want to stay patient and stay within the offense."
Vivians hit her first two 3-pointers as the Bulldogs built an 8-2 lead. The Cavaliers battled back for a 18-16 lead. A 3-point play by Bibby gave the Bulldogs the lead for good on the next possession.
MSU stretched that lead to 28-23 at halftime.
"We were a step slow on the defensive end to start the game," Bibby said. "Once we started making some energy plays, it got the crowd going."
Schaefer spent most of the first half imploring his team to "flip the floor." He wanted chaos on the defensive end. He was looking for a tone that Dominique Dillingham, one of the seniors on the 2016-17 squad, set in her four-year career.
In the second half, Morgan William and Vivians filled that void. Roshunda Johnson took care of business on offense with two 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs stretch the lead to 49-29 with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third quarter.
Schaefer said the defensive play of Vivians and 23 forced turnovers were keys.
"I was proud of the effort throughout the whole game. I thought we played really hard," Schaefer said. "However, the defense in the second half was something special. It was what we have hung our hats on here, and everybody got involved."
The Bulldogs scored 26 points off turnovers.
"For a first game, it went well," Vivians said. "We really stepped it up there late."
Johnson had 18 points. She was 4-for-10 from 3-point range.
MSU, which will play host to Georgia State at 7 p.m. Thursday, is 6-0 in season openers under Schaefer, and is 25-0 all-time in season openers at home.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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