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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Morgan William knew she had to make a change in the second half. After scoring five points and committing three turnovers in the first half, William rebounded to play a more aggressive and assertive role in the second half of the No. 3 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 78-75 overtime loss to No. 22 Kentucky before a crowd of 5,244 at Memorial Gymnasium. William committed only one more turnovers in 24 minutes in the second half. She also had 20 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two blocked shots, which doubled her total entering the game.
“I just attacked the basket,” William said. “I looked for my shot and I looked to get to the rim. I was being passive in the first half, so I figured it was up to me to step up in the second half for my team.”
William attacked the basket consistently in the second half, either getting to the rim or pulling up for mid-range jump shots. She also used her speed to dart into the gaps to work herself free for open shots.
“I thought that first half we had a lot of issues with the point guard position,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought Morgan (William) played very well in the second half and we ironed some of that out.”
William stayed strong despite picking up her fourth foul with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Her drive with 8.0 seconds left tied the game at 67 and set the stage for overtime. The final seconds weren’t without drama, though, as Evelyn Akhator appeared to make contact with William on a drive to the basket. Teaira McCowan then blocked Akhator’s shot to send the game to the extra session. McCowan blocked the shot despite having four fouls. In the overtime, William also had a runner that tied the game at 73, but the Bulldogs couldn’t string together one more positive possession to build a cushion.
“Basically, Coach just told me to guard the ball, attack the basket because we ended up giving them bonus, and just put our heads down and attack like they were doing us,” William said. “We had all the fouls, so we weren’t playing aggressive enough. We weren’t getting to the rim, but once we started getting to the rim we made them run.”
Lost in the shuffle of the drama in the fourth quarter and overtime was a 3-pointer by William at the end of the first quarter. The shot initially was ruled good, but the officials used video review to overturn the call. Turnover problems
Lost in MSU’s fast start — it led 10-2 and by seven three times in the first quarter — were 12 turnovers in the first half. That total was more than 10 games the Bulldogs have played this season, including an 11-turnover effort against Texas A&M. MSU committed the turnovers without being pressed and seeing very little half-court trap. Chinwe Okorie had three turnovers (one on a charge and one on a travel), while William committed three. That total was more than 18 games she has played this season.
For the game, MSU had a season-high 22. It had committed 20 only one time (Hawaii) entering the game. The Bulldogs entered the game averaging 13.2 turnovers per game.
“I didn’t even know they had 22,” Kentucky senior guard Makayla Epps said. “One of the things that was on our scouting report about Mississippi State is they force their opponent into 20-plus turnovers. We have done a really good job this year of taking care of the ball. That is just a shout out to everybody on the team for doing their job.
“Coach told us ball security and taking care of the ball and executing our plays would be big in this game. Morgan William had four (turnovers). That is very uncharacteristic of her. I have a lot of respect for her. (Victoria) Vivians had four. That is uncharacteristic, and one of the (other) kids had six. That is just us being in the right place at the right time and moving and being in the right position and working hard to get steals and turn the ball over.”
Schaefer said the Bulldogs tried to do too much with the basketball. That assessment accurately reflected MSU’s four turnovers in overtime. One was a pass that went off the hands of McCowan, one was a lost handle on a drive to the basket, one came on an entry pass to McCowan in the post, and the last one came on Vivians’ drive in which she was called for traveling.
“We had people trying to do things that they didn’t need to do,” Schaefer said. “Again, it was my fault for putting them in those positions. It’s my job as a coach to put them in positions where they can be successful. We can’t turn the ball over like that. We have to take better care of the ball, but that’s how Kentucky is. They’re really handsy, they steal and they do a really good job at it, so you have to take extra care of the ball. We just didn’t do that tonight. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure our kids understand that. Akhator goes off in fourth quarter, overtime
Schaefer credited Kentucky after the game for outhustling and being tougher than his team. He said one of the keys was how his team wasn’t able to handle Akhator, the 6-foot-3 senior forward, who tied for game-high scoring honors with 27 points. She was 11 of 20 from the field and had 16 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
“We go over one down every day and the way we guarded it tonight, it looked like Ned in the third grade,” Schaefer said. “We didn’t guard it hardly at all. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and I was literally going insane on a couple things we kept doing over and over again. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of coaching my kids tonight, but this should be about Kentucky. They did a tremendous job tonight and those kids played extremely well and hard and you have to take your hat off to them.”
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said MSU is one of the few teams in the Southeastern Conference that relies on a player-to-player defense virtually all of the time. Schaefer said the Bulldogs used some zone, but he said very little worked.
“With the way that they play, they give you some driving opportunities,” Mitchell said. “They’re probably the only team in the league that we’ve seen do that. We thought we had an advantage there if we could get the ball to her. We worked hard over the last couple of days to try to get in our mind what we needed to do to win. One of the keys for her was to not post up, sit on the block, and try to play a power game with them. Try to step off the block, get to the high post, and try to step out on the short corner. It was an incredible performance from her.”
Schaefer entered the season with wins against every SEC team except South Carolina and Kentucky. MSU lost to South Carolina 64-61 on Jan. 23 in Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won the last nine meetings against the Bulldogs. Kentucky entered the game having won the last 10 meetings against MSU. The Wildcats earned an 83-60 victory against the Bulldogs last season in Athens.
The last meeting in Lexington — a 92-90 double-overtime decision — featured a freshman-record 39 points by Vivians. The Wildcats won on a putback at the buzzer by Epps. The senior guard did it again Thursday night as part of a 22-point night. Missed opportunity
MSU will have to wait until 4 p.m. Sunday, when it plays host to Tennessee at Humphrey Coliseum, for its last chance to earn its first share or outright SEC regular-season title. William said the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to take care of business against the Wildcats.
“It was just an opportunity we missed out on,” William said. “We didn’t handle business, so it is a lost opportunity right now.”
MSU and Kentucky would have loved to continue the pace they set in the first quarter. The Bulldogs led 19-18 after William’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was waved off. MSU shot 8 of 14 from the field (57.1 percent), while Kentucky shot 6 of 13 (46.2 percent). Even though MSU slipped to 5 of 13 in the second quarter, it still shot 48.1 percent for the first 20 minutes. After shooting 5-for-36 against Ole Miss and Georgia, Vivians continued to re-discover her shooting touch. Vivians was 4 of 7 from the field (2 of 3 from 3-point range) and had 10 points in the first quarter. She was coming off a 7-for-19 shooting effort (25 points) in a 72-67 victory against then-No. 23 Texas A&M on Sunday.
Vivians attempted only one shot in eight minutes in the second quarter. She finished 8 of 17 from the field (4 of 9 from 3-point range) and 7 of 19 from the free-throw line. Kentucky weathered the storm for the final 7:59 of the first half after sophomore guard Maci Morris picked up her second foul. She sat out the rest of the half. Taylor Murray helped pick up the slack by scoring 10 points in the first half. The sophomore guard was 3 of 7 from the field and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line. She epitomized the Wildcats’ effort in the first half by attacking MSU point guards William and Jazzmun Holmes.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Seeking to tamp down growing unease in Latin America, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly pledged Thursday that the United States won’t enlist its military to enforce immigration laws and that there will be “no mass deportations.”
Only hours earlier, President Donald Trump suggested the opposite. He told CEOs at the White House the deportation push was a “military operation.”
Kelly, speaking in Mexico’s capital, said all deportations will comply with human rights requirements and the U.S. legal system, including its multiple appeals for those facing deportation. He said the U.S. approach will involve “close coordination” with Mexico’s government.
“There will be no use of military forces in immigration,” Kelly said. “There will be no repeat, no mass deportations.”
Yet while Kelly and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to alleviate Mexico’s concerns, Trump was fanning them further, with tough talk about “getting really bad dudes out of this country at a rate nobody has ever seen before.”
“It’s a military operation,” Trump said Thursday while his envoys were in Mexico City. “Because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before and all of the things, much of that is people who are here illegally.”
It was an altogether different message from Kelly and Tillerson, who traveled here to meet with top Mexican officials at a time of intense turbulence for U.S.-Mexico relations. Indeed, Trump acknowledged he had sent his top diplomat south of the border on a “tough trip.”
In contrast to Trump, Tillerson and Kelly emphasized a U.S. commitment to work closely with Mexico on border security, illegal immigration and trafficking of drugs and weapons issues Trump has made a central focus of his young presidency, much to Mexico’s dismay. Both Tillerson and Kelly appeared to downplay any major rift between the U.S. and Mexico.
“In a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences,” Tillerson said. “We listened closely and carefully to each other as we respectfully and patiently raised our respective concerns.”
For Mexico, that patience was running short. Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray noted the “public and notorious differences” between the countries and said the Mexicans had raised the “legal impossibility” of a government making “unilateral” decisions affecting another country. Videgaray has previously raised the prospect Mexico could seek recourse at the United Nations or elsewhere for U.S. moves violating international law.
“It is an evident fact that Mexicans feel concern and irritation over what are perceived as policies that may hurt Mexicans and the national interest of Mexicans here and abroad,” Videgaray said. The divergent tones from Trump and from his Cabinet officials left Mexico with an uncomfortable decision about whom to believe. Throughout Trump’s first weeks, foreign leaders have grown increasingly skeptical as Trump’s envoys deliver soothing messages that are then negated by the president.
Mexico has been incensed that the U.S. announced without Mexico’s sign-off that people caught crossing the border illegally will be sent back to Mexico even those from third countries who have no connection to Mexico. Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, Kelly’s Mexican counterpart, said that concern had come up Thursday, too. Both countries said it was positive that the neighbors remained committed to working through the disputes diplomatically, though there were no indications they were any closer to a resolution. As the Americans wrapped up their Mexico visit, they remained at odds with their hosts over the deportations and over the massive border wall Trump has vowed to construct at Mexico’s expense. Trump spoke during the presidential campaign about using a “deportation force.” His Homeland Security Department at one point considered using the National Guard to help with deportations, although the White House has said that idea has been ruled out.
The Homeland Security Department didn’t immediately respond to requests to clarify why Trump’s remark about “a military operation” had conflicted with that of Kelly, who blamed the media for “misreporting.” At the White House, spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump hadn’t been speaking literally. He said Trump used the “military operation” phrase “as an adjective” to describe the precision with which immigration enforcement was being carried out. Tillerson and Kelly also met behind closed doors with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto before returning to Washington. Pena Nieto recently canceled a trip to Washington over Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for the wall. It has not been rescheduled. In addition to sending border-crossers from third countries into Mexico, new memos signed by Kelly this week call for prioritizing deportation for anyone charged or convicted of any crime, rather than just serious crimes. That potentially subjects millions in the U.S. illegally to deportation, many Mexicans included.
Those policies have stoked fears in Mexico about the possibility of deportee and refugee camps emerging along Mexico’s northern border. Mexican officials were also apprehensive that a forthcoming report ordered by Trump’s administration listing all current U.S. aid to Mexico is intended to threaten Mexico into compliance over immigration or the wall.
Mexico has also raised concerns about Trump’s pledge to overhaul the trade relationship and possibly apply steep taxes to Mexican products, a move with profound impacts for Mexico’s export-heavy economy. Tillerson said the leaders had agreed the trade relationship needed to be modernized and strengthened.
Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City and Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.
Hearing of retired cop who shot moviegoer puts Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law back in the spotlight
Vivian Reeves was emotional as she testified Wednesday before a judge at her husband’s hearing in Florida, attesting that her husband, Curtis Reeves, a retired Tampa police captain, had his head in his hands after he shot a fellow moviegoer over a disagreement about a cellphone in January 2014.
Curtis Reeves is accused of fatally shooting Chad Oulson. The shooting allegedly happened after Oulson threw popcorn at the Reeves for being told to put away his cellphone during the movie’s previews.
“It happened very quickly, and [Oulson’s] whole upper body just came forward, and I thought that he was coming over, Vivian Reeves testified.
If a Pasco County, Florida, judge determines that Reeves was acting in self-defense and his case meets Florida’s “stand your ground” law criteria, he will be immune from criminal prosecution and civil action in connection with the deadly shooting, according to The Associated Press. If not, he will be tried on a second-degree murder charge for the death of Oulson.
Florida’s “stand your ground” law allows residents to use force, including deadly force, if they “reasonably believe” they are at risk of death or great bodily harm. The law specifies that people have “no duty to retreat” if they feel threatened.
Reeves’ lawyer has invoked the “stand your ground” law. He argues video from the movie theater shows that Oulson attacked Reeves first and that Reeves acted in self-defense, the AP said.
Oulson’s widow, Nicole, told ABC News in 2014 that her husband was texting the babysitter, who was watching their young daughter.
“It was a couple of words. No threats. No harm. No nothing,” she said.
Republican Florida lawmaker Dennis Baxley, who co-authored the bill, which was supported by the NRA, told ABC News this week that the law was inspired in part by an uptick in crime after many hurricanes in the state.
“We had a lot of properties that were open and people living in FEMA trailers,” he said.
He remembered one situation in which a man “was in his FEMA trailer with his wife in front of their property, and they had an intruder in the night which he shot and killed.”
When “stand your ground” was signed into law, it wasn’t controversial, Baxley claimed.
“We had bipartisan support. [It was] unanimous in the Florida senate. Only 20 people in the Florida house opposed [it],” he said.
The measure passed the Florida Senate 39-0 and the House 94-20. Arthenia Joyner was one of the Democratic lawmakers who opposed “stand your ground.” She told ABC News today it was “a big debate back in 2005” and the law still leaves her with the same “fears that I had back in 2005.”
“It hurts the chances for minorities to receive justice,” she said.
Traditionally, a defendant who invokes self-defense is required to first retreat and avoid the deadly encounter if possible, Kenneth Nunn, a professor at University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, told ABC News. But “stand your ground” modifies that, he said, by telling Floridians they do not have to retreat first and “can use deadly force if it is reasonable.”
“What could’ve happened in [Reeves’] case is Reeves could have turned around and walked away. Without ‘stand your ground,’ we would say the person has to retreat … but the law says he doesn’t have to do that,” Nunn explained.
Additionally, “stand your ground” gives the defendant a chance to claim immunity from prosecution.
“If you can claim ‘stand your ground,’ you can’t be prosecuted at all,” Nunn said. “The way we determine whether you can claim ‘stand your ground’ is through a pretrial hearing. At the pretrial hearing the defendant has to show … they’re entitled to the ‘stand your ground’ rule. [Defendants must show] they believe that they were under a threat of deadly force … and it was reasonable [for them to use deadly force].”
If they can prove they acted in self-defense, then no charges can be brought, Nunn said.
Former National Rifle Association President Marion Hammer, who said she worked with sponsors to “perfect the law,” told ABC News that “the very idea that when you’re under attack that you should have to turn your back on an attacker and run away before defending yourself flies in the face of justice and the Constitution.”
She continued, “‘Stand your ground’ law is about protecting innocent people from overzealous prosecutors and courts that have become more interested in convictions than justice.”
Nunn pointed out that state lawmakers are trying to amend the controversial law.
“There’s a statute that has been introduced into the state legislature shifting the burden of proof to the prosecution … If this law passes, the burden will shift to the prosecution” to prove that the defendant cannot claim “stand your ground” and away from the defendant, he said.
Florida was the first to institute a “stand your ground” law, in 2005. Since then, more than 22 states have enacted similar laws.
Roy Bedard, a use of force and defensive tactics expert, explained why other states followed Florida’s lead.
“It wasn’t just Florida having these [crime] problems … it seemed to be sensible to these other states,” he said.
He added, “Other states wanted to see how it worked out in Florida [and] it spread like wildfires across the U.S.”
Everytown for Gun Safety, an independent organization working to reduce gun violence in the U.S., calls “stand your ground” laws “a threat to public safety.”
“These laws encourage armed vigilantism by allowing a person to kill another person even when they can clearly and safely walk away from the danger, and even in public areas,” Everytown says on its website.
The rate of homicides, especially homicides by firearms, sharply increased in Florida after “stand your ground” was passed, according to a study published in November 2016 by the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine. The study’s authors, however, acknowledged that multiple factors may have led to an increase in the Florida homicide rate.
“Circumstances unique to Florida may have contributed to our findings, including those that we could not identify,” they wrote.
Baxley disputed the findings and argued that Americans should not be “panicking over” law-abiding citizens.
“They are not a threat to anybody and the firearm is not dangerous in the hands of that person,” he said. “No one should be beaten, raped or murdered, robbed and feel like they couldn t defend themselves or they might be in trouble.”
Before Reeves’ hearing this week, there were two cases in particular that propelled Florida’s self-defense laws onto the national stage: George Zimmerman, who was accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and Michael Dunn, who was accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis at a Florida gas station in 2012.
Neither Zimmerman nor Dunn invoked the state’s “stand your ground” law because “in both cases the defendants argued that deadly force was used because they reasonably believed that it was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily injury. That is, at its core, no different from the law in almost every other state,” according to Dan Abrams, ABC News’ legal analyst.
Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder. Dunn was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After the Zimmerman acquittal, then-Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the NAACP’s annual convention, saying, “It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken. There has always been a legal defense for using deadly force if and the ‘if’ is important no safe retreat is available.”
The NRA responded with its own statement, vowing to “work to protect self-defense laws currently on the books and advocate for their passage in those states that do not fully respect this fundamental right.”
After Davis’ death, his mother, Lucy McBath, felt compelled to learn more about Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
“I can’t just turn a blind eye because I received justice,” she told ABC News.
McBath now serves as a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety. She said she wants to stand up for “all the people across the country who do not have a voice, for people who are dying senselessly.”
“‘Stand your ground’ laws give untrained citizens more leeway than the U.S. military gives our soldiers in war zones. There’s something critically wrong with that,” she said.
She added, “We have a responsibility, our legislatures have a responsibility … to challenge these very laws that impinge on a person’s civil, moral and ethical human right to live without the fear of being gunned down.”
ABC News’ Morgan Korn, Jeff Costello, Lindsey Jacobson, Julia Jacobo and Gillian Mohney contributed to this report.