Mississippi State junior center Teaira McCowan had a game-high 23 points Thursday night to help her eclipse 1,000 points for her career. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
January 26, 2018 10:18:36 AM
STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer has talked about Teaira McCowan's potential ever since she arrived at Mississippi State.
The veteran coach recognized early on that the 6-foot-7 junior from Brenham, Texas, was a great athlete with a desire to get better. Early in her career, the only things Schaefer wanted to see more of from McCowan was better focus, a desire to be the best, and greater consistency.
McCowan's ability to produce those results with greater regularity is a primary reason why the MSU has climbed to No. 2 in the nation in both national polls.
On Thursday, McCowan's maturation continued as she scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the third quarter to lead No. 2 MSU to a 90-53 victory against Florida in a Southeastern Conference game before a crowd of 6,727 at Humphrey Coliseum.
McCowan went 9-for-13 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free-throw line to eclipse the 1,000-point mark in the 95th game of her career. She added eight rebounds, two blocked shots, and two steals.
McCowan received congratulations from plenty of crown-wearing fans after the game. The praise continued in the hallway leading to the post-game media room, as McCowan said "thank you" numerous times for joining MSU's elite club.
"I didn't know I was close, so it was surprising," McCowan said. "Coming out of halftime, coach was like he was going to put me on the right block and he told me to go to work, so that is what I did."
Victoria Vivians added 17 points in three assists on her Senior Night, while Blair Schaefer had 15 points on a 5-for-8 effort from 3-poinr range. In all, 10 Bulldogs scored to the team improve to 21-0 and 7-0 in the SEC. The win helped the squad break the record set last season for the best start to a season in program history. It also enabled MSU to establish a new best start in league play and to match its longest winning streak in the league.
Coach Schaefer said MSU made a point to go inside in the third quarter after having only 12 points in the paint in the first half. McCowan was the beneficiary as she was 5-for-6 from the field. She showed a variety of moves, from powering through a defender to lay the ball in to using her quickness to make a quick turn for a jumper. McCowan also displayed good footwork in executing a drop step back to her left to score and draw a foul.
Schaefer has credited associate head coach Johnnie Harris for her work with McCowan and all of the post players.
"We put her down there on the block and said, 'Go get it,' " Schaefer said. "She started off the half scoring and then we got Blair some open looks in the corner, and Tori was very good as well."
MSU outscored Florida 31-14 in the third quarter to break the game open after leading 35-23 at halftime.
Florida coach Cameron Newbauer said teams have to decide what they are going to try to take away against MSU. He said he prefers to trade twos for threes, but McCowan capitalized on that strategy by going
"You try to take away a certain shoulder on her and then she goes to the middle," Newbauer said. "Hats off to that young lady for becoming such a force. She has transformed her game and become the best center in the country in my mind."
Newbauer, who is in his first year at Florida, came to Starkville two years ago as coach of Belmont to play in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Even though Belmont didn't play MSU, Newbauer said McCowan's conditioning and her strength have improved. He also said McCowan can move better on the perimeter to help the defense.
"A lot of that is just I think a drive to want to be great," Newbauer said. "Not all young ladies have that, but she bought into what they did here and it has transformed her game. Now she is a leader and one of the best players in the country, so hats off to her to her will and desire to be great."
NOTES: During the game, MSU announced a 110-for-10 drive in which it will try to break the program's all-time attendance record. Coach Schaefer said he would donate $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Starkville if MSU fans show up to help the program shatter the mark of 92,914 set in 2015-16. "I don't want to break it. I want to shatter it," Schaefer said. "These kids deserve 10,000 a night in the Hump." MSU's next home game against South Carolina on Monday, Feb. 5, already is sold out. Other home games are against Kentucky (Feb. 11), Texas A&M (Feb. 18), and Auburn (Feb. 22). ... MSU redshirt senior Roshunda Johnson tied her career high with seven rebounds. ... The Bulldogs were 23-for-33 from the field in the second half. ... The 7-for-14 effort from 3-point range equaled the high-water mark for the season set against Arkansas (10-for-20). MSU finished 37-for-68 (54.4 percent) from the field, which is the third time it has shot better than 50 percent from the field in the SEC. ... Florida outrebounded MSU 37-32, including 15-11 on the offensive end. It is just the fourth time MSU has been outrebounded this season.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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