Everyone predicted a wildly one-sided game between the undefeated, number one nationally ranked Mississippi St. (26-0) team against the (6-20) Commodores. And that is exactly what happened: the final score was 95 to 50, Mississippi State. Yet it’s implicit that a one-sided game has to be boring, and Vanderbilt’s Thursday night’s showdown was anything but.
Mississippi St. broke UConn’s dynastic grip on the women’s game by ending their 111 game winning streak in the Final Four last year, only to lose for the third time that season to South Carolina in the Finals.
Starkville seems to have embraced the team in their quest to complete unfinished business, evidenced by three sellout crowds so far this season. Victoria Vivians, a guard who scores double digits in nearly every game and has emerged as a consensus All-American, was elected to be the 2017 football Homecoming Queen. Now in his sixth year as Head Coach of the program, Vic Shaefer has consistently fielded tournament quality teams for the Bulldogs. This year they seem poised to break through the glass ceiling after two years of heartbreak in the Final Four to finally win the first National Championship in school history.
Needless to say, at 6-20, Vanderbilt Women’s basketball is not competing for a ring. They’ve suffered through a historically bad season. The Men’s team has a clutch of exciting, close games to dwell on and a Dream Team to look forward to next year. The Women’s team’s 70-55 romp over Kentucky was a bright spot, but now the women are just playing for the sake of staying relevant in the SEC.
The 111 to 80 something loss to Belmont has become emblematic of an extremely disappointing season for players and fans. But without trying to grasp at non-existent positives, it’s still an interesting product to watch. Kayla Overbeck is still taking charges and celebrating, Rachel Bell is still scoring double digits, and head coach Stephanie White still looks determined, albeit increasingly disappointed, in press conferences. So, before readers hasten to write this year off as “the worst sports seasons in the past ten years” before baseball even throws out the first pitch (and yes, fellow freshmen, baseball is a thing here,) try heading down to Memorial one time to catch a game.
It was Breast Cancer awareness night this evening, with the home team in special pink jerseys and many of the students in attendance sporting pink ribbon stickers. Christa Reed had 14 points and four rebounds, which was a good sign. Vanderbilt came back at the end of the first half to put the team in a position to rally in the second, which was better. But at the end of the 3rd quarter, Mississippi St. fans hijacked the band’s song for a Bulldogs chant, and if one of the most distinctive gyms in college basketball hadn’t transformed already, it officially felt like Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville. They were rolling the entire game, cheered on by a crowd of majority Mississippi State fans, many of whom inevitably made the long, flat drive back to Northern Mississippi in the unusually warm February night soon afterwards.
“We have to be better in transition,” Coach White said, “because they are a very good defensive team and they will take things away from you. We have to get the timing and screens down. I thought we did a good job of breaking the press early,” she added.
Vanderbilt will play at Florida this Sunday at noon.