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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Harrison: Questions to address before women’s basketball post-season play

Haylee Morman
Jessika Carter averages 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

With the regular season complete, the Mississippi State University women’s basketball team needs to address some of their recent struggles as the Southeastern Conference Tournament approaches and a potential NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament bid hangs in the balance.

A late-season skid follows the Bulldogs in their post-season preparation. MSU has lost five of their last six regular season games.

In the last few weeks and over the course of the season, there have been four looming questions surrounding the Bulldogs’ performance and overall outlook for the rest of the year.

Can MSU prevent late-game comebacks by opposing teams?

From the start of the season, the Bulldogs have struggled with opening the fourth quarter with a lead but slowly allowing opponents to draw close and, in some instances, take away the win.

Feb. 22, in the game against the University of Kentucky, Mississippi State led 63-54 at the start of the fourth, but quickly the tides turned, and the Wildcats fought back and won the game on a 19-0 run, spanning from the middle to the end of the quarter.

Executing in the final quarter will be essential to securing wins against tougher competition. If the Bulldogs run out of steam too fast, it will be poisonous to their long-term winning hopes.

Can MSU limit a game-changing player while not letting other players on a team fill that role?

In games against high-performing players, the Bulldogs struggled to find solutions to stopping these players or allowing the teams’ other role players to fill in the gap where the game-changers usually shine.

Against the University of Alabama on Feb. 25, MSU allowed Alabama guard Aaliyah Nye to total 26 points as she went 8-13 from three-point range and 9-17 overall shooting. The Crimson Tide’s Sarah Ashlee Barker also had a hot hand that afternoon going for a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Jan. 29, Mississippi State earned a quality win over then-ninth-ranked Louisiana State University, 77-73. However, the Bulldogs could not prevent LSU’s impact player Angel Reese from having another double-double performance, but they did find another way to limit her role: getting Reese into foul trouble.

MSU can look at the LSU game for inspiration, but they will need to do more than simply forcing key players into foul trouble. This alone will not be enough to win games, especially if the player still has a high-performing night.

Will the Bulldogs be able to clean up their turnover mistakes?

One deciding factor in MSU’s most recent losses has been that when the Bulldogs lose the turnover battle, it becomes increasingly more difficult for them to hold on to leads or find their way back into games.

In the Alabama game, MSU totaled 18 turnovers, while Alabama had 12. Alabama added 23 points off turnovers while MSU only added nine. Going back to their first loss of the slide against the University of Florida in this four-game skid, the Gators forced 20 turnovers, and MSU only forced 13. The result was a 90-70 defeat for the Bulldogs, while Florida outscored them 22-17 on turnover plays.

Not giving opponents extra possessions from turnovers will be crucial for MSU as they play tougher competition.

Can the Bulldogs adjust if injuries and health issues impact a deep post- season run?

Throughout the season, the Bulldogs were tolled by players suffering injuries who had to sit out.

In November, Mississippi State’s Senior Ramani Parker suffered a season-ending knee injury. Senior Erynn Barnum missed time midway through non-conference play but, two games later, she returned to fill her starting role. Graduate Student Jessika Carter had a few injury scares throughout the year but, fortunately, is still active in the paint for the Bulldogs.

Other players and coaches have missed time with illness or injuries throughout the year.

The Bulldogs had to adjust in the season when they were missing roster pieces for either injury or illness, but if this happens on the grand stage, will they be able to adapt again?

MSU should address these four questions if they want to have a chance at making a run in the SEC Tournament and possibly the NCAA tournament.

The pressure is on Mississippi State to have another special March Madness run after in his first season, second-year head coach Sam Purcell, led the team to a Round of 32 appearance against the University of Notre Dame.

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