Mississippi State senior center Teaira McCowan blocks a shot by Southeast Missouri’s Kennedi Allen on Tuesday night in Starkville. McCowan had a game-high 24 points, 17 rebounds, and seven blocks in the 88-53 win. Photo by: Kelly Donoho/Mississippi State Athletic Media Relations
November 7, 2018 10:15:09 AM
STARKVILLE -- Jazzmun Holmes looked comfortable in her first starring role.
For the last three years, Holmes has served as an understudy to Morgan William as the floor general for Vic Schaefer's Mississippi State women's basketball team. In that time, she has learned the importance Schaefer places on taking care off the basketball and communicating with her teammates.
There have been plenty of ups and downs for a player who arrived in Starkville as a quiet standout from Harrison Central High School.
But Holmes has blossomed into a vocal presence who appears to be focused on leading MSU back to the Final Four.
Holmes had 11 points and five assists as one of four players in double figures in No. 6 MSU's 88-53 victory against Southeast Missouri before an announced attendance of 6,373 at Humphrey Coliseum in the season opener for both teams.
"I thought Jazz played well running the point," Schaefer said. "Myah (Taylor) had six (assists) and two (turnovers), so that is almost (a) four-to-one (ratio), which is what you want. I thought they did a nice job running our team and scoring. You get 7-for-12 (shooting from the field) at that position and that is pretty good."
Senior center Teaira McCowan led the Bulldogs with 24 points, 17 rebounds, and seven blocked shots. Chloe Bibby (11 points, six rebounds, three blocks), and Jordan Danberry (10 points, five rebounds, three assists) also reached double figures.
Holmes was 5-for-8 from the field and committed only one turnover in 25 minutes. Her best sequence came in the third quarter when she pushed tempo to help the Bulldogs assert control. With 9 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the stanza, Holmes took a pass from Danberry on a quick lookahead and converted a layup. She then took the Bulldogs' first charge of the season. Two possessions later, Holmes grabbed the rebound and pushed the basketball for a layup to give MSU a 54-27 lead with 7:33 to play.
"Watching Jazz get a rebound and dribble the length of the floor past everybody, I heard the other coach screaming. I don't think they liked that, and I wouldn't, either," Schaefer said. "When you have somebody like that who can do that and beat everybody down the floor, and again, I probably will be talking to the other four wondering why they are not running faster than the ball can be dribbled.
"Our transition, when we get out, is really good. We can really get out and fill some lanes, we can make some good decisions, we can pass the ball well."
MSU had a 54-26 rebounding edge. With McCowan and Howard, who had seven rebounds, entering the season as the SEC's active rebounding leaders with more than 1,000 each, Holmes, Taylor, and Danberry know the Bulldogs they will be hard to beat on the boards. The speed of all three guards gives MSU a weapon it hopes to utilize against those teams that feel it won't be able to score at as high a pace as the 2017-18 team did with guards like Victoria Vivians, Roshunda Johnson, Blair Schaefer, and William. Last season, MSU averaged 81.1 points per game. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs had 16 fast-break points, which provided a good starting point for a team Holmes and Schaefer feel will be a work in progress.
"That is what coach wants us from us. He wants us to run in transition," Holmes said. "That's how we're going to score our points, so that's what we need to do."
Howard is another player who can push tempo. The 5-foot-11 graduate transfer from Texas A&M can handle the basketball and is athletic enough to beat opponents down the court. She showed in the exhibition victory against Central Missouri and against Southeast Missouri she is capable to grabbing a rebound and creating tempo herself.
"(Coach Schaefer) always wants us to go in transition every chance we get," Howard said. "It definitely is an emphasis for us."
Howard said there are multiple players who can push the tempo, including herself. As a former track and field standout, she could be on the receiving end of a lot of passes from Holmes, Taylor, or Danberry.
Holmes said she has learned not to do too much and what shots are the ones she needs to take. Schaefer echoed that sentiment when he praised Holmes productivity from the field. He hopes she can lead a team that valued sharing the basketball as much as the 2017-18 team.
"She has learned No. 1 don't turn the ball over. That is going to make him madder than anything," Schaefer said. "The next thing she knows I am going to want her to get us into something. I don't want us jumbled in a mess. Open you mouth and get us into something."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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