Nov. 30—STARKVILLE — Doug Novak's Mississippi State women's basketball team spent its Thanksgiving playing in the Daytona Beach Invitational, but Novak says his thank you notes weren't addressed to the Dayton team MSU beat.
Instead, Novak thanks No. 12 Michigan for handing Mississippi State (5-1) its first loss of the season, 64-48 on Saturday, to close out the invitational.
"There are times in life where you have to say, 'Thank you, Michigan, for maybe exposing us for who we are at this present time," Novak said. "I have a hard time right now saying, 'Thank you, Michigan for that loss.' Nobody wants to lose, but we don't wanna make excuses ... That is who we are today. We're not there yet."
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Mississippi State is a team with size issues.
Matching up against 6-foot-2-inch reigning Big Ten player of the year Naz Hillmon showed that.
Hillmon struggled a bit against State but managed to score 18 points.
MSU didn't try to directly double-team Hillmon too much, but Novak says his team always had players hovering to make Hillmon feel as though four defenders were in the area.
The effort limited Hillmon to her second-worst shooting performance of the season at 40 percent, but it also opened the door for players such as Leigha Brown to score 23 points against the Bulldogs.
Novak added Mississippi State was frustrated on the offensive end and didn't move the ball enough as a result of what Michigan was doing.
"They made us a little bit tighter than we might've been in some of the other games," Novak said. "When you don't work somebody on the offensive end, it becomes extremely hard on the defensive end."
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Mississippi State will utilize the three days it will have had away from game action to assess its trip to Daytona Beach before welcoming McNeese State to Starkville on Wednesday.
MSU needs those off days with just 10 active players on the roster at the time.
Novak provided no timetable regarding the return of forward Jessika Carter (personal), Alasia Hayes (injury) and Mia Moore (injury).
Guard KN'isha Godfrey is no longer with the program after entering the transfer portal less than a month after guard Jasmine Shavers did the same.
What that means for MSU in terms of its practice schedule doesn't change much.
But Novak said the approach the team is already taking with its physicality in practice is something one would typically see late in a season as teams get worn down.
"We've used pads and tried to keep people away from their feet as much as possible so there's not a chance for some type of injury," Novak said.
Following its matchup with McNeese State, Mississippi State will head back on the road to face Oklahoma in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday.