Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Heartbreak but MSU will be back

As the final seconds ticked down in the women's national championship game, four Mississippi State seniors fought tears and tried to comfort one another.

That's to be expected. Their college careers ended one victory short of the first national championship in Hail State history. They were heartbroken after Sunday night's 67-55 defeat at the hands of Southeastern Conference nemesis South Carolina.

Dominique Dillingham, who plays the game as relentlessly as it can be played, lost her battle of emotions. She wept. So did Chinwe Okorie, Breanna Richardson and Ketara Chapel. Dillingham and Richardson were playing their final college game in their home state. Richardson came to State from Georgia, Okorie, all the way from Nigeria.

Some day, hopefully soon, the hurt will subside and they can celebrate what they accomplished, which was plenty. They were key parts of teams that won 111 games while losing only 34. That's a 76.6 percent winning percentage in the toughest women's basketball conference in the land. They won 34 games as seniors. On the way to the national championship game, they defeated, in three consecutive games: Washington and Kelsey Plum, best player in college basketball; No. 1 seed Baylor with its seven five-star recruits, and, most impressively, the No. 1 ranked UConn Huskies, who had won 111 consecutive games.

“These seniors have been very, very special,” Schaefer said. “They believed in a vision five years ago when we recruited them, when it wasn't easy to believe… These kids believed. They made it happen... They're always going to have a special place in my heart because of what they've accomplished, for believing and trusting in us.”

Schaefer virtually promised that State will be back in the Final Four, and he hinted it could be soon.

“We've got a heckuva team coming back and the nation's 19th ranked recruiting class coming in,” Schaefer said.

It would not surprise this observer if State makes it back sooner than later. They have coming back the darling of this NCAA Tournament, point guard Morgan William, leading scorer Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan, a 6-foot, 7-inch post player who should make a small fortune playing this game. William and Vivians will be seniors, McCowan a junior.

That's the future, but whatever happens for Mississippi State women's basketball – and a national championship is not out of the question – the foundation was laid by the four seniors. Vic Schaefer's system is defined by tough, physical basketball. The four seniors showed all who come behind them how it is done: By defending, man-to-man, as if your life depends on every possession, by taking charges and gladly taking the bruises that come with them and by diving after loose balls as if they were made of gold. Dillingham, especially, epitomizes all that.

My seat on press row for the championship game was right behind the State bench. Schaefer obviously loves his players, but “tough love” is very much a huge part of his system. He doesn't accept anything less than maximum effort. If he sees anything less from any player, she quickly has a seat on the bench.

What Schaefer did Sunday night was a perfect example. William was a half-step slower than she normally is after playing 44 minutes Friday night, so she took a seat on the bench and was replaced by sophomore Jazzmun Holmes. When Holmes played well and gave the Bulldogs a spark, Schaefer left her in the game. It seemed odd: William, suddenly a national hero, watching the fourth quarter.

Afterward, somebody asked William about it and this is what she said: “Jazzmun went out there and did a good job. She had energy, which was what Coach was looking for...she went three for five from the field, she was putting pressure on the ball and scoring points, so I can’t be mad. It’s what was best for the team.”

That kind of attitude bodes well for State's future. That's the kind of attitude Dillingham, Okorie, Richardson and Chapel have made the norm at State. They leave Mississippi State much, much better than they found it.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is


Anonymous said...

With South Carolina seeing its number 2 and 3 scorers leave early for the WNBA, plus its senior center graduate, the only team that will be more talented than MSU next year should be UConn.

If we can get some quality minutes from our freshman backup center and find a hard-nosed 4 to defend and rebound (likely Ameshya Williams), another Final Four run is within reach.

Anonymous said...

There are two transfers that had to sit this year that will be immediate help for next year. They are both described as having "South Carolina type build".
Added to returning starters, MSU should be better next year.

Anonymous said...

We know that we are better than UCONN now, so I don't really see how we can be stopped next year.

Anonymous said...

Careful, 11:06. We came into the tournament this year with revenge on our minds, and you can believe that UConn will do the same thing next year. We'll be lucky to beat them again.

Anonymous said...

Amazing to see the stroke of luck South Carolina's had since they took down the confederate flag from the state capitol.

Coastal Carolina won the college world series

Clemson won a national championship in football

Now South Carolina's women's basketball team won a national championship

But we'll hold on to confederate battle emblem in our flag - because we are winners for standing up for Dixie - who lost in the war of northern aggression! Yee-haw!

Anonymous said...

12:38, maybe Gov. Feel would change his mind if he heard that argument. Otherwise, we sadly will continue to have future months and years for Mississippi to honor the confederacy.

Anonymous said...

Like Jimmy V's NC State team, these young women have become the hope that hard work, every member of a team giving their best, good coaching and love of the game still matter. David can still slew Goliath.
Lots of teams win games, few teams become legendary. Our Lady Bulldogs made basketball history.
And, every Mississippian and most of the Nation was a Bulldog fan for one glorious week and are fans of this team of extraordinary young women for a lifetime.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to replace the Mississippi flag, but you HAVE to be kidding about this causal link between South Carolina removing the Confederate flag and some athletic championships. The flag came down in SC largely because of Dylann Roof shooting up a Charleston church and killing nine people, an act which focused the efforts of state officials and activists upon the flying of the banner. That was less than two years ago.

The teams that won those victories and those championships you mention were being built well before that. The seeds of Clemson's and USC's and Coastal Carolina's teams were planted while that flag was flying. It was the efforts of the athletes and the coaches that won, not some mystical "luck" that was bestowed upon the state by the gods of social justice.

Back when Katrina hit, Joe Kennedy wrote an article blaming the storm hitting Mississippi on then-Governor Haley Barbour's role in Bush not signing the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. In other words, Katrina was Haley's fault. Kennedy was/is a moron, and your assertion is equally absurd.

So, you want the flag to change? I agree with you. I voted to change it in 2001 (even though I didn't like the new flag design) and will vote to change it again. But a bullshit statement like that makes you look idiotic, and by assigning their accomplishments to mere luck you steal the glory from the athletes who worked hard to achieve their goals.

Anonymous said...

@ April 6, 2017 at 2:15 PM - "The flag came down in SC largely because of Dylann Roof shooting up a Charleston church and killing nine people, an act which focused the efforts of state officials and activists upon the flying of the banner."

You didn't clearly understand the post - let me repeat what was previously stated ever so clearly - stressing the main words in my original post

"AMAZING TO SEE THE STROKE of LUCK South Carolina's had SINCE they took down the confederate flag from the state capitol."

Yes the flag was taken down due to Roof's actions, however SINCE the flag has come down - the state has been fortunate to see their own state colleges bring back three national championships in three different sports.

So in my personal opinion, that act of good will was rewarded with three major events for the whole state

Anonymous said...

@ April 6, 2017 at 3:24 PM So in my personal opinion, that act of good will was rewarded with three major events for the whole state

So, in your estimation, the championships are "rewards" for removing the flag from the Columbia Capitol building.

I believe I understood you perfectly, and I stand by what I said - that that is absurd.

Anonymous said...

April 6, 2017 at 4:28 PM - "I believe I understood you perfectly, and I stand by what I said - that that is absurd."

Yep - and that's why Mississippi is in the condition it is now!? You want to practice extraordinary spiritual beliefs, but do not believe in practicing those beliefs in regards to your fellow Mississippians.

We have a million churches in this state - but however - nothing extraordinary ever happens spiritually to bring the people in this state together!? I hope it doesn't take innocent lives to do so!?

You cast doubt and this state is evidence of that doubt. The Southern Baptist Convention came out and said, take the flag down - as a Christian - if you truly believe - then do what is right. But low and behold, you, Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves cast doubt - but still want to thump a bible claiming it is a promise for a new and better day in Mississippi!

My message is to all the so-called Christians in Mississippi that support the current flag and I ask them to look at South Carolina as an example.

But that message is still not connecting - however - it's connecting for South Carolina and to them so go's the spoils of victory! Three National Championships later, who has the last laugh?? Mississippi or South Carolina - the state we followed going into the confederacy?

Isn't it ironic that once South Carolina removed the confederacy from the narrative of state politics - that three of their state colleges won National Championships in Football, Basketball, and Baseball? Then on top of that Boeing opened up an additional manufacturing plant, giving thousands of South Carolinians opportunity for a job with great wages!

This is an out of body extraordinary experience on what is happing in South Carolina since they retired the confederate flag!

Mississippi does not have the social/economic capital or social/economic equity to ignore all the good things that have happened in South Carolina since they lowered the confederate flag. Its high time Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves come to their senses and address the confederate emblem in our state flag.

South Carolina is proof of that!

When do we get tired of being stuck at 50th!?

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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