Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan moves past Mississippi Valley State’s Makayla Bonner en route to two of her career-high 41 points Thursday night in a 112-36 victory before a crowd of 8,535 at Humphrey Coliseum. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
December 29, 2017 9:39:57 AM
STARKVILLE -- Teaira McCowan made sure to give the Mississippi State women's basketball fans their money's worth.
It started with a bright smile that illuminated the darkness in Humphrey Coliseum during the pre-game introductions. McCowan raised her arms over her head to wave to the crowd as she jogged out of the tunnel as the first MSU player to be introduced prior to the team's game against Mississippi Valley State.
McCowan didn't waste any time getting down to business after the opening tip.
McCowan poured in a career-high 41 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead No. 5 MSU to a 112-36 victory against MVSU before a season-high crowd of 8,535 at the Hump.
MSU coach Vic Schaefer impressed upon his players he didn't want to see them give "a $1 effort" on a night tickets were available online for $1 and hot dogs were only $1. He was more than pleased -- as was McCowan -- that the Bulldogs delivered a performance worthy of the fans' support.
"I felt like I went out there and got the job done," McCowan said.
When asked how she rated her performance after hearing Schaefer say he wanted his players to give the fans their $20 effort, McCowan locked her eyes on the questioner and said, "If you get 40 (points), that is a $20 (scoring) line."
Victoria Vivians added 16 points and Roshunda Johnson had 14 as all 11 Bulldogs scored to help the team close the non-conference portion of its schedule 14-0. It is the second-straight season the Bulldogs have gone undefeated in non-conference action, and the third time in the last four seasons. MSU will open Southeastern Conference play at 5 p.m. Sunday (SEC Network) against Georgia in Athens, Georgia.
McCowan tuned up for that matchup with her sixth-straight double-double, 10th of the season, and 20th of her career. The timing of McCowan's dominance comes after Schaefer challenged McCowan to take advantage of her 6-foot-7 frame and her improved skills to dominate in the paint. The Brenham, Texas, native has responded by eclipsing her previous career high twice in the last six games. Her 41-point showing is the 12th time a Bulldog has scored 40 or more points in program history. The most recent occasion came last season when Morgan William scored 41 points in MSU's victory against Baylor in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs recorded their third-highest point total in program history and their second largest margin of victory thanks in large part to McCowan, who was 12-for-15 from the field and had 25 points and nine rebounds in 17 minutes in the first half. She outscored undersized MVSU (0-12) by herself in the first half to help MSU build a 59-20 halftime advantage.
McCowan finished 19-for-24 from the field. She missed tying LaToya Thomas' program record for field goals in a game by one. Eight of her rebounds came on the offensive end. She also had five blocked shots.
"Teaira could have had 100," Schaefer said. "She was very dominating. Some of the shots she made, even though there is not much size on her, she is making some really tough shots and some shots that need a touch."
That shooting touch is a sign McCowan is reaping the benefits from the work she is doing with associate head coach Johnnie Harris. McCowan's field goal percentage has grown from 49.5 percent as a freshman to 56.9 percent as a sophomore to a team-high 65.7 this season.
McCowan has been so dominant that she passed Vivians for the team lead in scoring at 19.9 points per game. Vivians, who has led the Bulldogs the last three seasons, is right behind her at 19.8 ppg.
"She is developing a really soft jumper. She is developing a touch off the glass," Schaefer said."She is smoothing things out. I know there wasn't 6-4 or 6-5 guarding her, but it wouldn't have mattered. She is just really getting better."
Schaefer praised McCowan and Johnson for bringing it from the start of the game. He said he was fine with using Johnson, a redshirt senior, at point guard for stretches after backup point guard Jazzmun Holmes was saddled with foul trouble. Johnson and Blair Schaefer had five assists as the Bulldogs had a season-high 28. Eight players had assists.
NOTES: Freshman forward Chloe Bibby didn't play due to sickness. Schaefer said sickness has been going through the team and that Bibby became ill earlier Thursday while the team watched film. ... The crowd of 8,535 was the fourth-largest in program history. "I really want to thank our fans," Schaefer said. "Eighty-five hundred, no students is really special." ... Junior guard Jordan Danberry had five points and seven assists in 15 minutes off the bench. Schaefer was pleased with Danberry's productivity, but he added he needs her to finish her scoring opportunities, especially since she is so good at creating opportunities. "She has three five-footers she misses. I need her to make those," Schaefer said. "She can get to her spot anytime she wants. I got to have her finishing. The seven assists, she sees the floor extremely well, but she is breaking down the defense and they have to help. When they do, she really sees the floor. That is the point guard in her coming out. She warrants the minutes, and she is going to get them, as long as she doesn't turn the ball over." ... MSU has opened SEC play on the road 13 of the last 16 seasons.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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