MSU women's basketball hosts Maine

MSU's Morgan William (2)
Staff Writer

Prior to Wednesday’s top 10 matchup against No. 9 Oregon, Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer said that he would learn much about his team when that game was finished.

Four quarters later, Schaefer was satisfied with what he learned. The No. 5 Bulldogs looked the part against a top ranked team as they dominated most of the game on the way to a 90-79 victory over a team that made it to last year’s Elite Eight.

Schaefer is aware that this year’s team is doing things a little bit different than the last few. He’s worked a four-guard lineup with all four of those players being senior guards. All it has done has made his team one of the more difficult to guard in the country.

“I just think we’re hard to deal with offensively," Schaefer said. "People are having a hard time guarding us right now. These kids are making shots. They’re confident. We’re got four senior guards and they’re setting the tone. Those kids have a presence.”

The MSU offense is averaging 84 points per game and hitting 3-pointers at a 37-percent clip. Playing with a four-guard lineup isn’t putting a dent in rebounds, either, as the team is averaging 40 a game and eight more than the competition.

Senior Victoria Vivians is flourishing in her new role. The state’s all-time leading high school scorer is in the midst of her best season as a Bulldog and playing it at the four spot.

Vivians is averaging a career high 20 points per game and shooting a blistering 55 percent, nearly 20 percent higher than her average coming into the season. Vivians is also averaging 5.8 rebounds a game and has been capable on the glass.

Wednesday against Oregon was Vivians at her best. The Carthage native poured in 30 points for the second time this season and scored 26 of those in the second half.

Of course, center Teaira McCowan made the most noise with one of the more dominant performances in school history.

McCowan put up 35 points and 19 rebounds and had a double-double by halftime.

When asked post game how good she can be, she gave an emphatic answer.

“I think I can be great,” McCowan said. “It’s going to take hard work, dedication and buying in. This year I’m way different because I don’t allow myself to get in the way of what I’m trying to do and the goal of my team.”

Schaefer isn’t far off from her prediction. Last year’s Southeastern Conference Sixth Woman of the Year is a bonafide All-American if she continues on this pace. She’s averaging 17.4 points and 12.3 rebounds a game and has had two 30-point performances in non-conference play. Her 22 blocks also make her a defensive force on the inside.

“I still think there’s a level we can get to with her," Schaefer said of McCowan. "The sky is the limit. Find me someone who got 35 and 19 against a top 10 team this year or last year or the year before. When she is engaged and focused, man, she’s a monster. I need that daily, weekly and monthly.”

MSU is hosting a final opponent in a four-game homestand Sunday when Maine comes to town for a 2 p.m. tip. The Bulldogs travel to Las Vegas for a Wednesday and Thursday matchup against UNLV and Syracuse in the Duel in the Desert.