Hampered Huskies: MSU beats Washington to make Elite Eight
There was quite a bit for the Mississippi State Bulldogs to prepare for in their Sweet 16 matchup with Washington.
The Huskies had the all-time leading scorer in Kelsey Plum and nation’s top rebounder in Chantel Osahor. MSU planned accordingly, but nothing Washington did could account for the monster performance Teaira McCowan delivered.
The 6-7 center took over the game in the fourth quarter and MSU's women advanced to their first-ever Elite Eight in school history with a 75-64 win.
McCowan dominated the final quarter against star rebounder Osahor, racking up 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks in the fourth quarter alone. She finished with a double-double with her 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“We were seeing what she does in practice all the time," State's Victoria Vivians said. "It is just whether you put it in play on the court. She came out there, she took over, and helped us win the game. Seeing her do that as a sophomore shows great maturity.”
After scoring just six points through three quarters, McCowan exploded in the fourth in one of the more memorable performances in recent memory. The Texas native scored the first 14 points of the final stanza to help the Bulldogs outscore the Huskies by 13.
Things couldn’t have started off much worse for MSU, which gave up four early 3’s and was down by nine points quickly. Like the team has done most of the season, there wasn’t any panic.
“I was disappointed in our energy,” Bulldog coach Vic Schaefer said. “Their first four baskets were all 3-pointers and they were uncontested. It was really frustrating because that’s being focused.”
MSU’s defense began to clamp down and they were waiting for offense trailing 20-13 after one quarter.
That offense came with the aid of star player Vivians, who came off the bench and sparked the Bulldogs in the second. Vivians put up nine points and her defense with Dominique Dillingham on Kelsey Plum had taken that nine-point deficit and flipped it to a 38-29 halftime advantage.
The defense was the story for MSU as it held Washington to 3-for-15 shooting after its hot 7-for-11 start to the game.
The roller coaster game continued to go up and down. Washington fought back and retook the lead thanks to a 7-0 run that made it 50-46 after three quarters. The Bulldogs were going to have to dig down deep and finish.
McCowan was the spark as she took the game over immediately.
“During the media (timeout) they told me, ‘T, you’ve got to dominate,'" McCowan said. “Just knowing that I had to step up and take my team further, that’s when I had that look in my eye that no one could stop me.”
A 3-point play started what was a 14-2 run by MSU in the first 2:30 in the fourth and McCowan scored all 14 of those points. The Bulldogs pushed the lead all the way out to 10 points with 5 minutes left in the game.
The defense did the job the rest of the way with McCowan’s blocked shots and Dillingham’s work on Plum.
MSU held the Huskies 20 points under their season average and hot-shooting Washington made just 39 percent from the field while getting out-rebounded 49-34.
Along with McCowan, Vivians scored in double digits for the Bulldogs with 13 points on 6-of-16 shooting and Blair Schaefer had double digits for the third-straight game scoring 10. Morgan William had just five points but eight rebounds and six assists.
Vic Schaefer and his team is used to making history in Starkville. MSU (32-4) is in the middle of the greatest season in school history as it heads to the first Elite Eight.
The win and advancement was no surprise, but Schaefer wants the rest of the country to see just how good his team is.
“I’ve got a good team,” Vic Schaefer said. “I’m a little disappointed in the country right now that we’re not getting the respect that they deserve. We’ve got a bunch of really good players and we’ve beaten a bunch of really good people.
“I have so much pride in these girls because I know how hard they work. They’re just not getting that much credit right now and that’s fine. We’ll fly under the radar. We never doubted that we couldn’t do it.”
MSU now prepares to play for a trip to the Final 4 on Sunday. The No. 1 seed in the Oklahoma City Regional will be waiting for them as the Baylor Bears are the opponent.