GREENVILLE, S.C. (WLBT) - For the fourth straight season, No. 5 Mississippi State will play in the SEC Tournament championship game after defeating Missouri, 71-56, in Saturday’s semifinal action.
Teaira McCowan scored 27 points and added 16 rebounds for her 26th double-double of the season. The nation’s active leading teammates in double-doubles struck again as Anriel Howard recorded 19 points and 10 boards.
“I’m really proud of my team and how they competed today,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I loved how we came out of the gate to start. These kids have really locked in and have played well since we got here. Beat a good team today, a team that really played very well at our place. As everybody knows, kept us from being 16-0. I thought we answered today.”
State’s defense set the tone as the Dawgs got out to a fast start. MSU (29-2, 15-1 SEC) scored the first seven points of the night and forced three turnovers in the first four minutes of play before their shots stopped falling. The Tigers (23-10, 10-6 SEC) used an 8-0 run to take a 14-12 lead, but the Bulldogs fought back to close the quarter leading 16-14.
Howard went 4-of-7 from the field in the first quarter despite the rest of MSU’s players shooting just 1-of-10.
MSU used a 12-2 run over 4:55 in the second quarter to build a 30-19 lead. The teams then traded baskets to close the half with State holding onto its 11-point lead, up 37-26. MSU held Missouri to zero free throw attempts in the first half.
State opened the second half with six of the first seven points, but Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham kicked off an 11-0 run on her own to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to 43-38 with 2:48 left in the quarter. MSU closed the quarter on an 11-3 run to take a 54-41 lead into the final period.
After allowing a season-high 11 three-pointers to Missouri in their last meeting, State held the Tigers to 9-of-21 from behind the arc and didn’t allow a three-point field goal in the fourth quarter. MSU outscored Missouri, 17-15, in the final 10 minutes to result in the final score.
The Bulldogs allowed just a pair of offensive rebounds and dominated the paint, collecting 40 points in the lane. MSU forced 17 turnovers on seven steals and converted them into 14 points off turnovers.
The Bulldogs will play the winner of the Texas A&M-Arkansas semifinal in tomorrow’s championship game at 1 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
“I just want it to feel different tomorrow,” Schaefer said. “I’m tired of walking off the floor and confetti hitting me on my backside as I’m going to the locker room. I want to stand in the middle of it and have it hit me in the face.”