BLOG: Robby’s Keys to Victory for Mississippi State vs. Notre Dame in the National Title
That’s been the rallying cry since last year’s run to the National Championship game for Mississippi State and once again it has returned.
The Bulldogs are 40 minutes away from their first National Title team trophy but MSU has their work cut-out for them as they’ll face a Notre Dame team that boasts one of the most proficient offenses in all of women’s college basketball.
Defensively, HailState Hoops will have to bring it but I’ve outlined five other keys to victory in the match-up versus the Irish that could lead Mississippi State to the Title.
1. Wear down the Irish & play all 40 minutes
– This one seems self-explanatory but it rang true on Friday night when the Bulldogs defeated Louisville. When MSU got into Louisville’s bench early on with the foul trouble of Myisha Hines-Allen, it changed the complexion of the game. Forcing the Cards to their bench early was key. But for MSU on Sunday against Notre Dame, they will benefit greatly from attacking and getting in the face of the Irish for all 40 minutes. Notre Dame usually only goes six deep and had four players play 40 or more minutes on Friday in the OT win against UConn. If MSU can get to the ND bench early, that greatly increases their chances to win. Another thing to monitor is the Irish can score quickly & reduce deficits fast. They trailed by 23 points in the 2nd quarter to Tennessee earlier this season and rallied to win. ND will make runs, it’s what MSU does to respond to those runs that will tell the tale of this game.
2. Attack the zone
– Since Notre Dame only goes six deep, the Irish defensively will play almost exclusively zone. They do have size inside with 6’4 Jessica Shepard but she is not much of a shot-blocking presence. With that said, the ND zone is difficult to navigate as it’s more of a match-up zone that typically won’t play to spots like you see most teams play in a 2-3. For MSU, the Bulldogs must play inside/outside with Teaira McCowan, collapse the ND zone and kick out to shooters but most especially find a way to attack and get to the rim for buckets. MSU did an excellent job going after UCLA’s zone defense and not settling for outside shots in the Kansas City Regional Final. That forced the Bruins out of their zone defense. If MSU can do the same to Notre Dame, it could be a game-changer.
3. Hit the boards
– Sure, you’re going to get plenty of boards from Teaira McCowan but MSU absolutely needs Victoria Vivians and the guards to do their part to keep Notre Dame off the offensive glass. The Irish are one of the best teams in the country in terms of rebounding margin and they average 15 2nd chance points per game. ND is a tremendous offensive team, averaging over 85 points per game but keeping the Irish off the boards is paramount. They will take plenty of contested jump shots/lay-ups and just doing that will only be half the battle for MSU. Following up on the misses and limiting second chance opportunities can only improve State’s chances.
4. Limit the balance
– When Notre Dame gets everyone involved, good luck beating the Irish. ND has four scorers that average 14 points or more per game and when they hit their average, they’re darn near unbeatable. When the Irish have four or more players scoring in double figures, they’re (27-0) this season. Certainly you’ll see Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey take plenty of shots from the perimeter as both are 39% shooters from 3. What it comes down to is making sure you don’t let others go off along with the ND scorers as the Irish are just (8-3) this season when 3 or fewer of their players score double figures.
5. Play your game
– In what could be the most simplistic key of them all, Mississippi State is good enough and talented enough to win the whole thing if they focus on just doing their thing. As I’ve said before, this doesn’t feel like the UConn win last year. That was a dream realized. The win over Louisville felt as if it was just another step to the ultimate goal. Sunday night’s game has been the culmination of months and years of hard work and preparation. Now, it’s come down to completing the mission and bringing home the Championship.
It’s been a long wait for Mississippi State University’s first team National Championship but come Sunday night, that wait very well may come to an end. 40 minutes stand between HailState Hoops and athletic immortality.
Don’t forget to tune in at 2:30pm CT Sunday on WCBI for our “From the Sip to the Ship” special as we have one final special presentation to prepare you for the National Championship. If you miss us on TV, you can watch us LIVE on WCBI.com/live as well. We will see you there!