Big night for Bulldogs: McCowan's strong play helps MSU hammer Ole Miss

Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan (15) blocks a shot on Thurscay night.
Staff Writer

It took about 2 minutes for Mississippi State to formally welcome their rivals from Oxford to Humphrey Coliseum.

Blair Schaefer sandwiched two 3-pointers with a charge on defense and had Ole Miss coach Matt Insell calling for timeout.

That lead ballooned to 12-0 before the Rebels finally got on the board and never got closer than seven points as the No. 4 Bulldogs rolled to a 76-45 win over their rival. It was the eighth-straight win in the series and the largest victory for MSU against Ole Miss.

“It feels good knowing that they haven’t beaten us in my fourth year,” senior Victoria Vivians said. “After me, they’ve got to continue the tradition.”

Vivians worked through foul trouble to score 15 points with eight rebounds. The night belonged to Teaira McCowan, however.

MSU’s star junior center dominated the paint once again with 25 points in just 26 minutes and 13 rebounds. She tied her own school record with 92 percent (12-of-13) field goal shooting and had four monster blocks that brought the crowd to their feet.

“I don’t know what her age is, but she could go in the first two picks in the WNBA Draft this year,” Insell said. “She one of the best basketball players in college basketball. She might be the best post player in the state – men or women.”

State played in front of 7,161 fans on Thursday night, another large contingent for coach Vic Schaefer’s team. They were boisterous and disruptive from the opening tip and they drove the early barrage.

“I thought the first 3 or 4 minutes were extremely loud,” Vic Schaefer said. “We just jumped out quick and I thought the crowd was electric from the get-go. To have 7,100 is really special, but that’s the norm here.”

After the hot start, the Bulldogs cooled and the Rebels settled into the game. Much of that was due to foul trouble from both McCowan and Vivians, who had two fouls.

The loss of those two had MSU stagnant on the offensive end and a 32-13 lead midway through the second quarter dwindled a bit. Ole Miss closed the half on a 9-2 run to get within striking distance at the half at 34-22. 
The Bulldogs didn’t make a field goal over the final 5:14 of the half.

“This was not the norm,” Schaefer said. “I thought we pressed early and did too much instead of letting the game come to them.”

That trend continued in the early part of the third quarter when the Rebels cut that lead down to seven points. State took the game back from there.

The seven-point lead turned into 18 quickly as the Bulldogs picked up the pace defensively and got McCowan into a groove. At the end of the three quarters, it was a 56-38 lead for the home team.

The Rebels didn’t score for 6-straight minutes from the third to fourth quarter to allow MSU to pull away for good.

“We just have to keep our composure and calm down a little bit,” Blair Schaefer said. “We know we’re capable. We just had to go back to getting our offense back to where we know it can be.”

Blair Schaefer had 14 points in the game and got four rebounds with six assists and no turnovers. The team out-rebounded Ole Miss 40-28 and held the Rebels to just 26 percent (16-of-60) from the field.

Top guards for Ole Miss Alissa Alston and Madinah Muhammad were a combined 8-for-37 against the Bulldogs’ defensive unit.

State (18-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) stays at home this weekend when it hosts Alabama for a 3 p.m. tilt at Humphrey Coliseum. The game can be seen on ESPNU.