In the waning minutes of Wednesday night’s game, Ameshya Williams pulled down a Tulane miss and hit Jazzmun Holmes with a breakout pass. The sophomore guard in turn hit Victoria Vivians streaking down the Mississippi Coast Coliseum’s court with a home run pass. Vivians was fouled on the fastbreak and later completed the old fashioned three-point play in No. 10 Mississippi State’s 66-49 victory over Tulane.
The series was a glimpse at a Coast-to-Coast play that Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer hopes will be a regularity in years to come.
The victory was a special one for both Williams and Holmes as their former West Harrison and Harrison Central teammates, friends and families were among the 1,724 fans in attendance.
Both former Coast standouts came in off the bench to arguably the two loudest cheers from the crowd when they made their debuts in front of the hometown crowd.
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“The atmosphere was great. Being able to play in front of my family was everything. Just coming back to where I’m from, playing in front of the crowd and having people who looked up to me when I was in high school made it a lot of fun,” said Holmes, who recorded two rebounds, two assists and one steal in 14 minutes. “It was different. The first time I got in I did have a few butterflies, but it went away after I came in the second time.”
Likewise, Williams made the most of her five minutes, making all four of her free throws while adding three rebounds to her stat line.
“It was exciting. I just knew I had to go out there and do my best going into the game at the last minute,” she said. “I think I did good coming off the bench. I have to go hard and play every time I come off the bench because I don’t get very many minutes. I just play my best every time I come off the bench.”
Williams is coming off of minor surgery, which limited her to 13 minutes in MSU’s previous two games. Schaefer, however, is extremely high on the 6-foot-2 sophomore.
“You see glimpses of her athleticism. She is an absolute monster athlete. Long,” Schaefer said. “We’re fixing to spend some good time with her and get her ready because she’s really athletic, quick and do some things for us on offense and defense.”
As for Holmes, Schaefer believes she can contribute right away as one of the team’s top reserves.
“I thought Jazz did a nice job coming off the bench. Jazzmun Holmes really was good for us,” he said. “She’ll say she had four turnovers, and she did, but I just thought she was really good for us in spelling Morgan.”
Hot and cold
The game was ugly in stretches as both teams struggled to consistently knock down shots. But as the Bulldogs (3-0) began to find their shot in the second quarter, Tulane (1-1) went cold.
The Green Wave ended up going scoreless in the final 4:36 of the second quarter to trail MSU 36-16 at halftime.
Tulane’s best chance at mounting an upset bridged the third and fourth quarters via a 10-0 run. The run was aided by consecutive 3-pointers from Leslie Vorpahl, bringing the Wave within 12, 47-35. MSU responded with its own small run, however, to squash the Wave’s upset bid.
Tulane’s run, coupled with the Bulldogs shooting just 36.1 percent from the field after boasting a 56.9 clip through their two previous games frustrated Schaefer.
“I didn’t think we had some kids who came out in the second half and were ready to play. I think if you’re going to be who everybody says we are, if we’re going to be a Top 10 team, then you come out and win (the second half) by 20 again,” said Schaefer, whose team was out-scored by Tulane 33-30 in the second half. “You don’t come out and stink it up and play dead even with them in the second half.”
Victoria Vivians and Breanna Richardson led MSU with 17 and 11 points respectively. Chinwe Okorie and Dominique Dillingham led MSU with eight rebounds apiece.
Despite being hit with two quick fouls in the first quarter, Vorpahl carried the Green Wave. The senior guard ended up scoring 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting from the floor.
“She came in and really competed and did a good job of running the team and also looking for her shot,” Tulane coach Lisa Stockton said.
Harlyn Wyatt added 10 points for Tulane.
Mississippi State has a big opportunity at 5 p.m. Sunday when the Bulldogs host No. 8 Texas in Starkville.
“Anytime you get a Top 10 team in your building it’s a great opportunity,” Schaefer said. “I know this, Texas looked really good losing to Stanford at Stanford. They looked really good to me. We’ll have our hands full.”
The Green Wave continue their mini Mississippi slate on Sunday with a 2 p.m. meeting against Southern Miss (2-0).