Bulldogs cruise during women's game on The Plain

Teaira McCowan

Staff Writer

Road challenge number two of the Southeastern Conference schedule came on Monday night for Mississippi State at Auburn and the Tigers had their minds set on being the first conference team in two years to take down the Bulldogs.

While Auburn’s defensive pressure created some issues to the MSU offense, the Tigers didn’t have Teaira McCowan.

It took just three quarters for McCowan to put together another dominant stat sheet. After 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks through three quarters, McCowan sat the entire final frame and the Bulldogs (16-1, 4-0 SEC) cruised to an 85-59 victory over the Tigers (14-3, 2-2 SEC).

“I didn’t feel any different, but I just knew that I had to focus on making the stick backs when my teammates gave me the ball,” McCowan said. “That was my main focus.”

McCowan was 19-of-37 over the first three SEC games this season but went 9-of-10 on Monday. This following a showing against Georgia that she would like to have back after missing nine shots. She commanded the game early and often and Auburn had no answer for the center.

The only thing that was holding MSU back from completely taking control of the game in the first half was Auburn’s full-court press defense and State’s troubles against it. Most of it came in the front court where the Bulldogs had a few passes go in the hands of a Tiger player and lead to points.

A total of 13 turnovers dampened what was an otherwise dominant first half from MSU’s offense and, particularly McCowan. The senior center had 14 points and five rebounds in her first 15 minutes and when the Bulldogs weren’t turning the ball over, they were hitting shots as they were 12-of-22 (55 percent) shooting in the first half for a 38-28 lead.

MSU led 22-12 after one quarter but Auburn kept it even in the second quarter because of its defense.

The third quarter, State created its separation. The Bulldogs protected the basketball better with only three turnovers and they hit 11-of-18 shots on the way to 26 points and a 64-45 advantage. That would be all they needed to cruise to a big road win.

“We did a much better job in the second half of getting better shots," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "I thought we made good decisions when we got going down there."

Schaefer has been itching to get more minutes out of his bench and he got that on Monday night. The Bulldogs played most of the reserves in the fourth quarter including Jessika Carter, who played all of the final frame and 17 minutes in the game. Carter had 12 points and six rebounds hitting all four of her field goals which made she and McCowan 15-of-16 from the field.

There was also Andra Espinoza-Hunter off the bench. She played 14 minutes for MSU and scored seven points, while Bre’Amber Scott had 15 minutes of action.

“I’m really proud of our bench," Schaefer said. "I thought they played well (Monday). We’re going to need that. I thought all of our bench played well and they’ve been practicing well.”

Chloe Bibby had 11 points in the win for the Bulldogs in 32 minutes but shot just 3-of-9 from the field and Jordan Danberry had 10 points.

Danberry’s biggest contribution came on the defensive end where she was matched up with Auburn star scorer Janiah McKay. A year after dropping 25 points on MSU at Humphrey Coliseum, McKay was held to 3-of-14 shooting and tied a season low with six points.

“We gave her a lot of room last year and I thought we just didn’t let her do that (Monday),” Schaefer said of the defense against McKay. “We’ve been working really hard on our help-side defense and we did a better job of it.”

The Bulldog win pushed them to 20-straight in the regular season against conference opponents, but they have their biggest test of this season’s SEC slate on Thursday night. That’s when MSU welcomes back No. 15 South Carolina at 6 p.m. on ESPN.