For the 4th straight year, the Mississippi State women are headed to the Sweet 16 after beating (9) Clemson 85-61 on Sunday.
In her final game in Starkville, Teaira McCowan led the top-seeded Bulldogs to victory once again, and her presence in the paint gave MSU a clear advantage over the Tigers. The senior center put up 30 points and 11 rebounds, and she also added 6 blocks.
The Bulldogs led 41-22 at the half, but the Tigers came out with a renewed effort in the second half. While Clemson did outscore the Bulldogs 24-21 in the 3rd quarter, it was too little too late. The lead was cut down to 13 at one point, but with McCowan, Anriel Howard and Jordan Danberry leading the way, the Bulldogs were able to distance themselves from the Tigers.
Howard put up 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Danberry added 18 points of her own. State is 12-0 when the duo of Howard and McCowan record double-doubles in the same game. 84 of MSU’s 85 points were scored by starters with the bench playing an extremely limited role.
The Bulldogs outrebounded the Tigers 42-29 and forced 23 turnovers in the win, but much like their first-round matchup, they struggled from beyond the arc. MSU is shooting just 22% from 3 during the NCAA Tournament so far, but against lesser opponents, that hasn’t seemed to matter. If they make it back to the Final Four or the title game, they’ll likely need to find their rhythm from outside to win.
While there is still work to be done, head coach Vic Schaefer knows that come tournament time, it’s all about moving on.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. I thought defensively, the first half, that may be as good as we’ve been in a while. I am extremely proud of my team. You win a game in the NCAA Tournament like we did tonight, you know you are doing some things right,” Schaefer said.
The Bulldogs will now leave their home floor and head to Portland to take on 5th-seeded Arizona State on Friday in the Sweet 16.
After Sunday night’s win, Schaefer addressed the sellout crowd inside of Humphrey Coliseum, and after thanking them for their support, he had a message for them as the team heads out West.
“We’re not done.”