Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics
The Bulldogs are back-to-back regular season SEC champs.
With a 68-64 victory over #14 South Carolina on the road on Sunday, the #5 Bulldogs claimed their second straight conference title, but it didn’t come easy. Mississippi State trailed by 7 at halftime, but they outscored the Gamecocks 19-8 in the 3rd quarter to regain the lead, and held them off down the stretch.
MSU went without a FG for five minutes late in the 4th quarter, and with an 11-2 run during that time, South Carolina cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 64-62 with 1:19 left to play. The lead was back down to 2 with 40 seconds left after an MSU turnover led to an easy Gamecock layup.
Jordan Danberry went to the line for MSU on their next possession, and she made the first but missed the second. Two missed putbacks kept the clock moving, and after an eventual jump ball, MSU got the clock down to :10 and another offensive rebound after a missed jumper forced the game-clinching free throw from Teaira McCowan.
“I knew it was going to be a dog fight,” head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought they really came out and had a lot of energy. They kind of took the fight to us a little bit. I challenged our guards at halftime because I thought their guards were the difference in the game in the first half. We talked about that a little bit and really just the toughness piece and the defensive piece.”
McCowan finished the game with 18 points and 17 rebounds, and she had help from her supporting cast. Anriel Howard added 13 points and 16 rebounds, while Andra Espinoza-Hunter scored 17 and Danberry put up 12.
After the game, Howard told ESPN that while they’re excited about the regular season title, there is still work left to be done.
“We’re very blessed with this championship,” she said. “We’re going to celebrate right now, then tomorrow we need to prepare for the SEC tournament and the NCAA tournament, but we’re ready.”
This was the first time that the Bulldogs have won in Columbia under Schaefer, and they have secured the #1 seed in the SEC Tournament, which begins later this week.
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