The game is at 8 p.m. CT and can be watched on ESPN.
What to Watch For
Backcourt vs. Backcourt
When all is said and done, it’s a guard’s game, as a lethal backcourt is essential today. For the Bulldogs to earn a trip to the Sweet 16, senior duo Jazzmun Holmes and Jordan Danberry must get out to a running start and set the tone defensively. While Holmes is not a score-first point guard, her speed and vision creates opportunities for teammates. Look for Holmes to find Danberry and rack up the assists, as she averages 5.4 per game.
Danberry, who can score at will from midrange must end the night in double digits. While the Tigers will do their best to take away Teaira McCowan and Anriel Howard down low, Danberry should capitalize, take open shots, and have a strong outing. She and Holmes are two of the nation’s best two-way guards and can make a play on either end of the floor.
Both are going to have to show up on defense, as Clemson also boasts a formidable one two punch in the backcourt. Like Mississippi State, the Tigers’ two guards, also upperclassman, are cerebral two-way players who can set the tone from opening tip. Simone Westbrook and Danielle Edwards, both savants at forcing turnovers, will jump out of the gate, in hopes of frustrating Holmes, ultimately limiting Danberry’s scoring role.
The Bulldogs simply cannot afford to turn the ball over. While Holmes has taken care of the ball as of late, she has turned it over 38 times this season. Both of Clemson’s guards have range and are quick, as both Danberry and Holmes must force the issue defensively. Expect a track meet and a battle throughout.
Second Chance Opportunities
McCowan, the nation’s best big, can dominate the offensive glass, ultimately creating second chance opportunities for Mississippi State’s plethora of shooters. Moreover, the Bulldogs must take advantage, thus taking care of the ball and not rushing ill-advised shots. McCowan should post another double double and have her way against Tiger forward Tylar Bennett, who had a career high five blocks against Boston College.
Look for Mississippi State to run but stay composed offensively. Given McCowan has become a significantly better free-throw shooter, the Tigers may have a different strategy rather than fouling the Bulldogs’ star center. Expect McCowan to take over in the paint and limit both Westbrook and Edwards from scoring in the lane.
The Third Quarter
Throughout the season, the third quarter has been an issue for the Bulldogs. Recently, however, Mississippi State has been at its best in the third, having realized that no matter how big a lead, to never let up. That said, assuming McCowan and Howard stay out of foul trouble, Mississippi State has this game. Furthermore, If Bre’Amber Scott and Andra Espinoza-Hunter are draining open shots from distance, Clemson will be in a world of trouble.
Tonight should be back and forth through the half, but Vic Schaefer will have a plan in the store come the third. If Scott and/or Espinoza-Hunter can get open and start the second half off with a few threes, Mississippi State should have a comfortable lead. As seen in Scott’s 18 point performance against Southern as well as Espinoza-Hunter’s record setting eight 3s in the SEC Championship, both can get on a roll when needed.
Mississippi State gets past Clemson, 79-67