GREENVILLE, S.C. — Three years of frustration ended with a word.
Lost in a sea of blue, yellow, and white confetti, Mississippi State women’s basketball coach Vic Schaefer mouthed that word as he cradled the Southeastern Conference tournament title trophy with his left arm. He used his right hand to welcome the pieces of paper as they cascaded around him and ultimately engulfed him on the podium with his players.
A moment delayed after three-straight losses to South Carolina in the SEC tournament title game was realized Sunday when No. 1 seed MSU defeated No. 10 seed Arkansas 101-70 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
“As a coach, I’ve done this a long time. This is 34 years,” Schaefer said. “We’ve cut down some nets. I’ve cut down a lot of nets in my career. In this particular venue, in this game, in this conference, as a head coach, that moment has eluded me.
Again, I believe that God puts you through moments and things that prepare you for something greater down the line. I’ve had some heartache in this game over the years. But my team, my kids, have had the same heartache. Jazz(mun Holmes) and T(eaira McCowan) have had that same heartache.”
McCowan earned tournament MVP honors after she scored 24 points and had 14 rebounds. Andra Espinoza-Hunter added 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting from 3-point range (her eight makes an SEC tournament single-game record), while Bre’Amber Scott had 20 points off the bench. Jordan Danberry (14 points) and Anriel Howard (11) also scored in double figures for MSU (30-2), which won its first SEC tournament title on the heels of its second-straight SEC regular-season crown. Howard and Jazzmun Holmes joined McCowan on the all-tournament team.
MSU will be at least a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. It will be in the running for a top seed when the pairings are announced at 6 p.m. March 18 (ESPN), a possibility amplified by Oregon’s loss to Stanford Sunday in the Pac-12 tournament championship game.
Until then, Schaefer and the MSU family will savor getting lost in a sea of confetti.
“I am so happy for him because we have come up for three years in a row,” said Holly Schaefer, Vic’s wife, who was on the court when the confetti fell from the rafters. “I have been a nervous wreck for him because I think I have wanted it more for him than he wanted it for himself. I am so happy for him and his staff and his girls. They have worked so hard to get to this point.”
Follow Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
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