January 14, 2019 10:29:23 PM
AUBURN, Ala. -- Pushing the tempo can be the best weapon against an opponent that loves to use pressure defense.
But the No. 7 Mississippi State women's basketball team found the answer to Auburn's zone press in the third quarter Monday and then put its foot down on the gas pedal and didn't look back.
Teaira McCowan had game highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead four players in double figures in No. 7 MSU's 85-59 victory in a Southeastern Conference game before a crowd of 1,908 at Auburn Arena.
"We had talked about stop getting it across halfcourt and running over there to the sideline and trying to get it to a point guard," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "If we go get a 10-footer early, let's get a 10-footer early. We had 13 turnovers at halftime and we had half of that in the second half. We obviously took much better care of the ball."
Jessika Carter had 14 points off the bench to help No. 7 MSU improve to 16-1 and 4-0 in the SEC. Chloe Bibby added 11 points, and Jordan Danberry had 10 for the Bulldogs, who won their 20th-straight SEC regular-season game.
Crystal Primm scored on a layup off a turnover to help Auburn (14-3, 2-2) cut the deficit to 40-32 with 8 minutes, 39 seconds to go in the third quarter. MSU then used a 10-0 run to gain the separation it had been unable to establish in the first half.
"Like coach said, we just tried to stay off the sidelines and get to the middle of the floor and get a layup or a 10-footer, so that is what we did," senior point guard Jazzmun Holmes said. "It was just attacking."
McCowan triggered the run with an offensive rebound putback. Holmes (eight points, five assists) and Anriel Howard (seven points, eight rebounds, five assists) followed with jumpers. Danberry scored on a layup in which she nearly went the length of the floor. She capped the run with a layup off an assist from Howard.
"I thought we made good decisions when we got down there," Schaefer said. "I thought Jazz was really good tonight. It is a lot to do out there, and there is no time to take a play off. She played 33 minutes tonight, which is not as much as she usually does."
MSU continued to force the issue for the rest of the quarter to the tune of a 26-17 advantage that pushed the lead to 64-45 after three quarters. In all, MSU had 10 of its fast-break points in the second half.
Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said MSU is "very hard to defend" in part because of its size advantage with McCowan and Carter, who are 6-foot-7 and 6-4. She said Holmes and Danberry also can hurt you because they can get to their spots
"It is just a tough game to continue to play that way," Williams-Flournoy said. "They got some transition buckets there that kind of blew the lead a little bit."
Auburn still forced 20 turnovers and converted those mistakes into a 20-15 advantage in points. The Tigers entered the game having won the points off turnovers battle in 15 games. They had 14 games with 20 or more points off turnovers. Against MSU, they had 18 points early in the third quarter.
Daisa Alexander led Auburn with 18 points and five rebounds. She also had three steals. Janiah McKay, the team's senior point guard, was 3-for-14 from the field and had six points. Primm had 14 points and seven steals, but starters Unique Thompson and Erin Howard didn't attempt a shot from the field and combined for only two points.
"I think it just came down to defense (in the third quarter)," Primm said. "In the second quarter when we went on our runs, we had a lot of energy on defense, we were making our rotations the way we were supposed to be doing it. Every time they got easy buckets in transition we weren't doing what we were supposed to on defense."
Conversely, MSU attacked Auburn's pressure better in the second half. Schaefer said he pointed out at halftime that the Tigers had a 30-22 edge in shots from the field. He said he was pleased to see the Bulldogs force the issue and pull away.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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