The NCAA.com Team of the Week is Mississippi State, who epitomized what it takes for a team to face the challenges and adversity of the current season and overcome them.
The Bulldogs went 2-0 on the week and improved to 11-4 overall and 2-1 in Southeastern Conference play with a 65-62 win at Alabama on Thursday and a 70-63 home win over Vanderbilt on Sunday, playing shorthanded in both games with numerous players and coaches sidelined due to health and safety protocols and/or injuries.
Against Alabama, Mississippi State suited up only eight players and had only two coaches, was missing its top two scorers, yet came away with the win. Senior guard Anastasia Hayes led all scorers with 22 points while Myah Taylor added 14 points, seven steals, six assists, and two blocked shots. Taylor rolled her ankle with one minute left in the third quarter, yet came back in the fourth quarter and scored three points, had four steals and had the game-winning blocked shot to seal the win.
Doug Novak, who was named Mississippi State interim head coach in October, 2021 after Nikki McCray-Penson stepped down due to health concerns, earned his first SEC win and first conference road win at Alabama.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs played shorthanded for a second straight game, this time playing with two coaches and just seven players, the minimum scholarship players allowed per rules. Anastasia Hayes again led the Bulldogs offensively, setting a new season high in scoring with 31 points on 55-percent shooting. Hayes scored 16 of her 31 in the second half. Hayes also took advantage of her opportunities at the charity stripe, converting all seven of her free-throw attempts. She also added two 3-pointers, three rebounds and an assist to her totals. Aislynn Hayes chipped in with nine points, all on clutch 3-pointers and a season-high six rebounds. Caterrion Thompson, who had only played a total of 230 minutes all season, hit a late 3-pointer to tie the game at 52. Her triple sparked a 14-0 run by the Bulldogs, a lead they would not surrender.
Over the two games last week, Anastasia Hayes played all 80 minutes, while Taylor played 76, Denae Carter, 69, and JerKaila Jordan, 67.
Winners of four of the last five games, Mississippi State returns to action on Jan. 13 at Kentucky.