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Notebook: MSU falls to Kentucky in overtime

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.”

Still winless

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.”

Fast starts

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

Spectacles abound in Missouri’s loss to Kentucky

COLUMBIA Red Panda outperformed two NBA lottery draft picks Tuesday night. The famous acrobat, who has entertained college and NBA crowds for over 20 years, exceeded the hype during her halftime performance at Mizzou Arena. Her act consists of pedaling a 7-foot unicycle with one leg and flipping bowls onto her head with the other. Meanwhile Kentucky freshmen guards Malik Monk and De Aaron Fox, widely projected as top-10 NBA draft picks this year, produced relatively quiet nights of 11 and 13 points respectively.

Missouri s own famous student-athlete, Olympic wrestling bronze medalist[1] J den Cox, assisted Red Panda in her act. As the acrobat pedaled, Cox tossed the bowls at her. She caught the first bowl on her foot, and easily flipped it on her head. Still balancing the bowl on her head, Cox upped the ante to two bowls. Red Panda repeated the amazing feat with a smile on her face. This pattern continued, the number of bowls increasing by one each time. By the time she had five bowls on her free foot, the other still pedaling away, the crowd was in a frenzy. After successfully flipping those five on her head, making 15 total bowls teetering on her skull while her torso balanced on the 7-foot unicycle, the crowd erupted. The Missouri men s basketball team lost 72-62 to No. 11 Kentucky on Tuesday. While the game itself provided plenty of thrills, the extracurricular activities stole the show.

Missouri fan John Bozesky came all the way from St. Louis to watch the game. He was not disappointed with the spectacle.

It was unreal, she just kept going, Bozesky said. Bozesky s father even said this was the only time he has seen the whole crowd invested in the halftime show. In case Red Panda wasn t enough entertainment at halftime, a fan named Travis made a half-court shot as part of a competition. The Steph Curry-esque basket resulted in Travis receiving $5,000 from Central Bank of Boone County. Once again, the crowd erupted. The spectacles outside the game didn t all revolve around marvels of athleticism. John Sundvold, who played for Missouri from 1979 to 1983 and has his jersey retired, was also honored at halftime. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey presented Sundvold with a plaque in front of the raucous crowd. Sankey then took a massive picture with all 80-plus of Missouri s academic honor roll students. Missouri senior diver Lauren Reedy was recognized, and the Missouri volleyball team was given an ovation during a break in play in the first half.

The grand finale came just before the final buzzer. A fan wearing a backwards visor and black polo ran across the court while Kentucky was running out the clock. A security guard tried to grab him, but the renegade escaped the grasp and booked it to the tunnel.

Kentucky s legendary coach John Calipari said he enjoyed the rabid atmosphere at Mizzou Arena.

If I walk in the building, and they (the opposing crowd) isn t cussing me, booing me, I will retire, Calipari said. If I walk on the opponent s court and they re cheering me, either you should fire me or I should be retired.

Supervising editor is Jonathan McKay.

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Huge logistical upheaval underway

The City of Hopkinsville is attempting to move heaven and earth to prepare for a crowd of 50,000 people expected to travel to the city for the August solar eclipse. At a public information seminar Monday at Casey Jones Distillery, Events Consultant Brooke Jung explained to a standing-room-only crowd the city s efforts to make the 2017 solar eclipse a pleasant experience for the residents of Hopkinsville as well as the visitors. We re really working to make sure we have plans for anything that could happen, Jung told the crowd.

With the city population expected to more than double for the eclipse, all aspects of life may be effected by the massive influx of people to Christian County. The city expects the crowds will arrive en masse Friday, Aug. 18, staying three nights before leaving Monday afternoon. Jung said local hotels had set their rates at $399 per night, with a three night minimum, in anticipation for the event. Hotel rooms are still available, Jung said. Booking sites like Expedia and[1] have been sidestepped by local hoteliers, in favor of their own websites. The Hopkinsville Police and Christian County Sheriff s Office will be stretched to the limit during eclipse weekend. Jung said the city would make an appeal to the governor for National Guard support.

Train companies have been asked to run modified schedules on eclipse day, avoiding any activity during the time of the eclipse.

It will be a quiet time for people that want to enjoy that time, Jung said. The Kentucky Department of Homeland Security will create a threat analysis for the eclipse, so emergency personnel will know what to do in the event of a crisis. Many landowners have expressed interest in renting space on their property for campers, and some homeowners have expressed a similar interest for letting people stay in their homes. The city s website,[2], has a space for private landowners to post their property for rent.

Jung said other services were available for families who want to post their property online, as well as services for collecting payment. Jung said Western Hills Golf Course booked 30 reservations after posting their property on the city s website for a week. To accommodate the increased load on the county s cellular network, ATT and Verizon will install temporary cell signal boosters for the eclipse.

Those who plan to serve food, whether it be from a grill or kitchen, need to receive a temporary permit from the Christian County Health Department. The Health Department will need to inspect the property as part of the permit process. To facilitate the large number of RV s expected to park in Hopkinsville for eclipse weekend, the Hopkinsville Water Environment Authority will designate specific areas for RV water dumping. This will be done so the noxious water carried by RV s does not contaminate the city s water supply. Potentially, Jung said, an alternative care facility will be set up in the northern part of Christian County, so medical emergencies can be dealt with at that location. Designated landing zones in that part of the county will assist the care facility if needed.

Jung said many garbage bins, water stations and signage would be placed throughout the city.

No roads will be closed during eclipse weekend, except Ninth Street from the Downtown Farmer s Market to the Christian County Justice Center, during the Summer Salute Festival Aug. 18-20.


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