In the midst of a head coaching change and a large pool of transfer players, the MSU women’s basketball team looks to officially start their season off against the Alabama State Hornets, a team that finished second in the SWAC last season, only missing the NCAA tournament by a few points.
In theory, this should be an easy win for MSU based on talent alone, but with the amount of adversity this team has already experienced, nothing can be taken for granted, and Bulldog head coach Doug Novak knows this.
“I really do think they can provide more than a test, I think they’re good,” said Novak to reporters Monday, “Alabama State, I think they were 16-4 last year and they have a lot of returners and they’re athletic. They play a nice high low game with some (strong) post play...they like to run. 73 points a game, they shoot at a pretty high rate, around 36% from three … if we’re not sound, this (game) is going to be a really tough challenge for us.”
MSU is not without its weapons, too, though, as Rickea Jackson returns for her junior season with the Bulldogs after an All-American Honorable Mention performance last year. The star Bulldog forward averaged about 15 points per game last season, four rebounds and two assists.
She headlines all returning players and, according to Novak, is about as much of a “pro” as MSU has.
Mississippi State is coming off of a year in which they finished 9th in the SEC only a few years removed from a national championship berth. That being said, expectations coming into the year were shaky at best, and with the unfortunate stepping down of former head coach Nikki McCray-Penson, the fan base seems leery of investing in this program at the moment.
Novak and company, however, are just focused on the here and now.
“We have so many things to take care of within ourselves that what other people think about us, it really isn’t a major concern of mine. That kind of stuff is good for about four minutes, and that’s it. And then any weakness that you have foundationally it’s going to show up after that and all that ‘rah rah’ stuff is gone … we’d rather teach for the long run.”
The long run starts for the Bulldogs Tuesday night, with a 6 p.m. tipoff against the Alabama State Hornets.