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Reserves could play bigger roles for Bulldogs

 

Mississippi State’s Roshunda Johnson, right, drives to the basket against Ole Miss’ Kate Rodgers in their game Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville.

Mississippi State’s Roshunda Johnson, right, drives to the basket against Ole Miss’ Kate Rodgers in their game Thursday night at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff  Buy this photo.

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer wants his reserves to be all-purpose, fix-it players. 

 

If nothing is broken and the Mississippi State women's basketball team is playing well, Schaefer hopes his substitutes have been paying attention to what has been going right so they can keep it going when they enter the game. 

 

Through 18 games, things are clicking at a high rate for No. 4 MSU (18-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference). Starers Teaira McCowan, Victoria Vivians, Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and Morgan William are averaging 68.7 of the Bulldogs' 87 points per game. 

 

As well as the staring five is playing, MSU would love to see more consistency contributions and added production from a group of reserves that includes Chloe Bibby, Zion Campbell, Jordan Danberry, and Jazzmun Holmes. Those four are averaging 10.4 minutes per game or more off the bench. Bre'Amber Scott (6.7 minutes per game), Jonika Garvin (4.4), and Nyah Tate (4.3) round out a bench that could be a key as MSU moves deeper into the season. 

 

The next step for MSU will come at 3 p.m. today (ESPNU) when it plays host to Alabama (13-4, 3-1) at Humphrey Coliseum. 

 

William, the team's senior point guard, feels Danberry, a junior transfer from Arkansas, is finding her way. 

 

"I think she is doing a pretty good job," William said. "I see it every day in practice. I see her make some big shots and as soon as she gets comfortable in the game, they are going to fall for her. I know it is coming, so when it falls I am going to be happy for her because it is really going to help our team." 

 

Danberry, a 5-foot-8 guard, is averaging 2.4 ppg. in 10.4 minutes. She often is the second guard off the bench behind Holmes, who is averaging 5.1 ppg. in 16.6 minutes per game. Holmes also is second on the team in assists with 56. 

 

Danberry, who has played point guard in the past, has 16 assists and nine turnovers in 10 games.  

 

"I think Jordan is trying to find her way. She is streaky," Schaefer said. "I thought she played really well against Arkansas. Taking are of the basketball is very important. ... She made some really great passes against Arkansas. That is her point-guard mentality coming out. She sees the floor extremely well. ... She not only can get to her spots on the floor when she wants to, but she also sees the floor extremely well. I think she is settling in and becoming more and more comfortable and trying to figure out what is needed when she comes in." 

 

A week ago, Bibby played one of her best games in an 83-70 victory against LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. With Vivians saddled with foul trouble, Bibby played 23 minutes and had 10 points and four rebounds. It was her fourth double-figure scoring game, and first since he had 13 points against Louisiana on Nov. 29. 

 

"She is doing a great job," Vivians said. "The other night when I was in foul trouble, she came in and played big minutes for us. I feel like her adjusting is going really well." 

 

The performance was especially sweet because Bibby's parents flew from Australia to watch her play for the first time in America. 

 

"She played big minutes," Schaefer said. "I thought she did a good job and really helped us. That was the first time Victoria has been in foul trouble all year, and she did a good job." 

 

Campbell also has provided consistent production (3.3 ppg., 4.0 rebounds per game) in 12.9 minutes per game. 

 

None of the reserves scored more than four points Thursday in a 76-45 victory against Ole Miss. Holmes again earned significant praise from Schaefer for her ability to run the offense in 19 minutes. Still, with Vivians playing only 18 minutes against LSU and McCowan and Vivians sitting out a portion of the first half to protect against foul trouble, all of the Bulldogs know they have to be ready. 

 

The reserves also will have to account for one of the starters having an off night shooting the ball. Against Ole Miss, Johnson was 1-for-5 from the field and had six points in 30 minutes. She found other ways to produce, though, with four steals. 

 

William said players like Bibby and Holmes have learned to be ready when called on. She said Bibby doesn't attack the basket like Vivians, but she feels the team has strong chemistry -- much like last season's squad -- to help it overcome adversity. 

 

"Coach always tells us when our name is called we have to be ready," William said. "Chloe was ready that day (against LSU). Her family was there, too. I am happy for her." 

 

NOTES: MSU will try for its fifth-straight victory in the series. ... The 18-0 start is tied for the second-best start in program history. Last season's squad won 20-straight. ... MSU is one of only three undefeated teams in the nation. Connecticut and Louisville are the others. ... MSU is the only team in the SEC to have four players in the top 30 in scoring in conference games. 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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