Mississippi State sophomore Chloe Bibby reacts Thursday after falling to the floor and suffering an apparent injury 35 seconds into the game. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
January 18, 2019 12:25:03 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
STARKVILLE -- Teaira McCowan was ready to step in and do her part.
After seeing teammate Chloe Bibby go down with a left knee injury 35 seconds into the game against South Carolina on Thursday night, McCowan said she realized her teammates needed her "extra." McCowan responded to Bibby's absence by scoring a team-high 26 points and grabbing 24 rebounds to help the No. 7 Mississippi State women's basketball team beat No. 15 South Carolina 89-74 in a Southeastern Conference game before a crowd of 10,006 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"My teammates found me," said McCowan, who had 12 offensive rebounds. "I knew coming in it was big game, so I could not take the night off. I had to go in and execute the game plan my coaches gave me throughout the week."
McCowan's effort helped MSU (17-1, 5-0 SEC) earn the largest rebounding margin (49-24) against South Carolina (12-5, 4-1) this season. It was the fourth time this season the Gamecocks were outrebounded in a game.
As much as McCowan was dominant on the interior, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley praised Jordan Danberry, Jazzmun Holmes, and Bre'Amber Scott for their contributions. She said the Gamecocks can withstand a 20-20 night from McCowan, but she said the Gamecocks have to do a better job to prevent the Bulldogs' other players from scoring above their averages.
"(McCowan) is a huge challenge when we had (former All-American and SEC Player of the Year) A'ja (Wilson)," Staley said. "I don't want to see her go. She is good for the game. She is good for our league, but I am glad there is an outlet for her to continue a professional career here and abroad."
McCowan was 9-for-15 from the field and 8-for-9 from the free-throw line. The effort from the line was part of a 20-for-21 night for the Bulldogs that was their best percentage (95.2 percent) of the season. McCowan had arguably her most active game of the season. In the first quarter, McCowan rebounded a miss by Holmes through the arms of South Carolina's Alexis Jennings, who was called for a foul. Jennings continued to hold her hands in the air as she turned her head to look at the official. McCowan then hit two free throws.
"I had a lot going into the game," McCowan said. "I knew that my teammates were going to come inside to me. ... I knew I had to pick up the slack that Bibby had. I'm not saying no one else would pick it up, but I knew I had to stand up."
Holmes said it best after the game when she was asked to characterize McCowan's play when she is "hooked up" and "interested," as MSU coach Vic Schaefer described.
"Dangerous," Holmes said.
Scott emerges without Bibby
Bibby entered the game fourth on the team in scoring (12.6 points per game). She was shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 45 percent (36-for-80) from 3-point range.
"I'm just going to tell you, everyone thinks you just go to the next one," Schaefer said. "Chloe has worked her tail off to be where she is, and to see that happen to her just rips your guts out. It rips your heart out. It's very difficult. I can't answer anything (about the possible injury) or (don't have) any idea (about the extent of it)."
Late Friday morning, Schaefer said in a MSU statement that Bibby would miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury.
"It was a scary moment for anyone who sees a teammate go down like that," said Danberry, who had 20 points, six rebounds, seven assists, and two steals. "I remember me and Jazzmun running back, trying to stop the ball so someone could go back to see how Chloe was. You just have to focus on the game even more. It makes you want to win the game for Chloe. Bre'Amber stepped up big time. I knew she would. They have been practicing well this week, and that showed well tonight."
Staley praised the play of Scott, who entered the game averaging 6.1 points in 11.9 minutes per game.
"She did what she normally does," Staley said. "She hits corner threes and direct-line drives to the basket. Her number was called and she stepped up. That's what you want in players that are coming off the bench."
Staley's teams at South Carolina have been known for their defensive acumen since her first season at the school in 2008-09.
MSU's 89 points was the most allowed in a SEC game by South Carolina in Staley's tenure. It eclipsed the 87 points South Carolina allowed to Kentucky in the 2016-17 season. Last season, South Carolina surrendered 80 or more points three times. Prior to this season, South Carolina had allowed 80 or more points in SEC play only seven times under Staley. This season, South Carolina has allowed 80 or more points four times. The previous three came in losses to Maryland, Drake, and Baylor.
Staley said people shouldn't get caught up in those numbers.
"That's not the real score," Staley said. "We had to foul. We had to shoot some threes. ... We will get back to doing what we do. Just check the scores before this game, and that's who we are."
The crowd of 10,006 was the sixth largest in program history. ... McCowan and Holmes recorded their 116th win to move to 116-16. They need 10 wins to match last year's senior class for the program wins record (126). ... Scott also took her second charge of the year.
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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