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Howard, Bibby helping No. 6 MSU build an identity

 

Anriel Howard had 24 points and 13 rebounds Thursday night in the No. 6 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 104-53 victory against Lamar.

Anriel Howard had 24 points and 13 rebounds Thursday night in the No. 6 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 104-53 victory against Lamar. Photo by: Blake Williams/MSU Athletic Media Relations

 

Adam Minichino

 

 

STARKVILLE -- Vic Schaefer acknowledges the identity of the 2018-19 Mississippi State women's basketball team remains unclear. 

 

There's no doubt senior center Teaira McCowan will be a key ingredient in the Bulldogs' final product. 

 

But Anriel Howard, Chloe Bibby, and the rest of the Bulldogs offered a glimpse of what coach Vic Schaefer's team can become in a three-plus minute stretch in the third quarter Thursday night. 

 

Bibby had nine points in an 18-0 run, and Howard led the way with 24 points as part of her first double-double as a Bulldogs in No. 6 MSU's 104-53 victory against Lamar before a crowd of 7,107 at Humphrey Coliseum. 

 

Jordan Danberry (career-high 15 points), Bibby (11), McCowan (11 points, 16 rebounds, five blocked shots), and Jessika Carter (10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks) also scored in double figures to help MSU improve to 3-0. 

 

"I'm very pleased with the second half," Schaefer said. "I'm extremely disappointed with the first half. You don't have to look any further than me. I'm responsible for our team and, obviously, I didn't have them ready to play. I thought they made some great adjustments at halftime. They came out in the second half and scored 42 points (in the third quarter), which is really good. We just turned it over too much. Twenty turnovers is way too big a number, and we have to learn to take care of the ball better." 

 

The 42-point third quarter is a record for MSU. The Bulldogs were 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) from the field and used the 27-point difference in those 10 minutes to blow the game open after they led 35-28 at halftime. 

 

MSU's 18-0 run stretched for 3 minutes, 20 seconds. The Bulldogs held the Cardinals (3-1) without a field goal for 6:29 and turned up the pressure with a full-court defense that changed the tempo and played a role in the Cardinals committing 20 turnovers. 

 

Bibby was in position and ready to shoot during the run. She took a pass from Danberry to kick off the run with a 3-pointer. She took another pass from Jazzmun Holmes (nine points, nine assists, five rebounds) later in the run, and then showed good poise to use a shot fake to entice the defender to leave her feet and then calmly drained a trey to cap the run. 

 

"If it's open, I'm going to take the shot," Bibby said. "My teammates have faith in me that I'm going to knock it down with (Howard), Jessika, or McCowan out there to get that rebound. We are just so big down there, (so) I have no hesitation to pull that. Everyone has faith in me to do that. We need shooters on this team because we are huge, still getting in the gym and still have to be better." 

 

Howard is showing she wants to add her name to the list of "shooters" on the team. Her 3-pointer wasn't a part of the run, but she did have a layup off an inbounds pass that she turned into a 3-point play. The basket was part of a 9-for-15 effort from the field (5-for-5 from the free-throw line) that nearly helped her match her career-high of 26 points that she set in her final game as a member of the Texas A&M women's basketball program in a 90-84 loss to Notre Dame in the Spokane Regional on March 24, 2018. 

 

"In the first quarter, I didn't come out as aggressive as I should have," Howard said. "The second half, we all did much better as a team, but individually I attacked a little more after coach told me to. With (McCowan) not being there, I felt that I had to help out a little more." 

 

McCowan picked up her fourth foul at the 5:06 mark of the third quarter. She didn't return. On this night, the Bulldogs didn't need her thanks to a balanced scoring effort and an energized third quarter. 

 

Lamar coach Robin Harmony said Howard, who also had 13 rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes, gives the Bulldogs a valuable dimension. 

 

"She's a smart basketball player. She doesn't make mistakes, and she can score on the bounce," Harmony said. "She can hit the three. She can take it to the rack. It's that type of player that makes a big difference for your team, especially if you get your bigs in foul trouble." 

 

The 3-pointer Harmony referenced came at the 3-minute, 27-second mark of the second quarter. Howard, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, showed good form in draining the trey from the top of the key to push MSU's lead to 31-24. It was her first 3-pointer as a Bulldog. Connecticut transfer Andra Espinoza-Hunter (seven points in 19 minutes) also had her first 3-pointer as a Bulldog at the Hump. It was her first game as a Bulldog in Starkville since she learned last week the NCAA declared her immediately eligible. 

 

Even though MSU remains a work in progress, Howard feels the Bulldogs are learning what roles they will play to make the team successful. 

 

"I have to knock down a lot of mid-range shots so they won't be doubling off of me," Howard said. "That will help (McCowan), too. If they respect me, that will make her job easier." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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