STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — A new era of Mississippi State basketball got under way without Vic Schaefer on Sunday as Nikki McCray-Penson’s first team hit the court against Jackson State.
The Bulldogs battled through a rusty start and took home an easy 88-58 win to give McCray-Penson her first win. The Bulldogs were supposed to play in Connecticut at the Women’s Hall of Fame Challenge this weekend but it was cancelled.
Preseason All-SEC player Rickea Jackson was one of four Bulldog players to score in double figures with her game-high 19 points on 8 of 18 shooting. She added seven rebounds and four assists.
“Did we really see this day coming? No, but we were very thankful that today came and we were able to play,” McCray-Penson said. “We’ve had a lot that we’re dealing with, our kids are adjusting on the fly, but they found a way to come out today and play with energy.”
The Bulldogs only had a few days to prepare for the Tigers and it showed early on as things didn’t start how they would have drawn it up.
In the first quarter, MSU made just 5 of 18 shots and led 14-4. The bad news for the Tigers is that they were held without a single made shot during that stretch.
MSU took full control in the next two quarters scoring 26 points in the second to push the halftime lead to 40-19. They led 74-33 after three quarters which was more than enough to overcome a fourth quarter in which the Bulldogs did not score for the final 5 minutes and were outscored 13-0 to close it out.
“I just feel like we had to get the rust off,” Jackson said. “It was our first game and coming off of last week and not being able to play in the tournament, we’ve just been practicing and trying to get going. I think we did that.”
Jackson finished the game with 19 points on 8 of 18 shooting and added seven rebounds and four assists. Preseason second-team All-SEC center Jessika Carter had 14 point on 6 of 8, JaMya Mingo-Young had 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists and Myah Taylor finished with 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
The Bulldogs finished the game hitting 41 percent of its shots with 12 of 29 coming from behind the arc. They outrebounded the Tigers 55-41 and had 23 assists.
Dayzsha Rogan led the Tigers with 16 points while Starkville native Jariyah Covington had 12 points and was 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
The big story was McCray-Penson knocking down win number one as a Bulldog. The former college basketball and WNBA great turned a program around at Old Dominion and her three years there but she walked into a much different situation in Starkville as she inherited a top 10 team and a program with two SEC Championships in recent years.
“When you’re prepared, you get those butterflies in your stomach because you’re ready to get this game started. Once that happens, you’re in mode,” McCray-Penson said. “I was ready just to get it over with because it was building up. I thought our kids did a great job coming out and sticking to the game plan.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were starting a new era of basketball under head coach Nikki McCray-Penson and in strange circumstances with a late-scheduled contest against Jackson State. There were no fans in attendance and the Bulldogs were sloppy at times but they found their groove to get things off to a big start.
Jackson State: Following the school’s first SWAC regular season championship last season, the Tigers are looking for big things this season. The loss doesn’t damper the expectations that Tomeika Reed has for her team as they were outmatched at every position against the top 10 Bulldogs.
Mississippi State hosts New Orleans on Wednesday.
Jackson State travels to Stephen F. Austin on Thursday.