Mississippi State looked every bit like one of the nation’s best teams during the first quarter on Sunday afternoon.
The other 30 minutes weren’t nearly as good. It was rough enough that coach Vic Schaefer was in no mood for celebrating No. 2 Mississippi State’s 69-49 victory over rival Ole Miss.
“We’re just kidding ourselves if we think we can win an SEC championship with the things we have going on right now from a mental capacity,” Schaefer said. “We’re just not very mentally tough.”
Mississippi State (22-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) earned a fairly easy win despite playing large portions of the game without its two main stars – Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan – who spent most of the day in foul trouble.
But that was no excuse for Schaefer, who criticized his team’s leadership and ability to overcome adversity when it strikes. Ole Miss outscored Mississippi State 31-30 in the second half.
“We kind of responded in a negative way,” Vivians said. “I feel like that comes with maturity and we need to grow up. I know I had a little attitude and I showed it on my face. I tried to get out of it in the fourth quarter and smile a little, but it just comes with maturity.”
Vivians scored 25 points on 10 of 18 shooting in just 25 minutes on the floor. Blair Schaefer added nine points on three 3-pointers. McCowan grabbed 10 rebounds in 17 minutes.
There wasn’t much doubt about the outcome after Mississippi State jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the opening minutes. Ole Miss had a chance to get back in it when the 6-foot-7 McCowan picked up two early fouls, but the Rebels couldn’t make any shots.
Ole Miss (11-10, 1-7) started the game shooting 1 of 18 from the field and missed its first 11 3-point attempts. The Rebels were led by Madinah Muhammad, who scored 16. Promise Taylor added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Mississippi State led 19-4 after one quarter and 39-18 at halftime. The Bulldogs have won nine straight against their in-state rival.
“We got off to a real sluggish start,” Ole Miss coach Matt Insell said. “All credit to (Mississippi State). They play really, really hard and take you out of everything you’re trying to do.”