In one of the country’s most intimidating environments, Mississippi State was put to the ultimate test, as 68-64 victory over the Gamecocks was anything but easy. Though it came down to the wire, the Bulldogs knew what was at stake, ultimately proving that they remain an SEC powerhouse and championship contender. Mississippi State rounds out the season at 27-2 overall and 15-1 in conference play.
Teaira McCowan led the team with 18 points and 17 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 center got off to a rough start, but erupted in the second half. She kept her composure all game long and knew the importance of second chance opportunities. Having proven to crash the boards on both ends, McCowan split her rebounds down the middle with nine on offense and eight on defense.
Also with a double double was Anriel Howard who posted 13 points and 16 rebounds. Frustrated early, Howard was able to bounce back and show poise. She and McCowan are virtually unstoppable down low, as Howard knew the importance of winning in Columbia. Look for Howard’s number to be called often come the tournament.
Andra Espinoza-Hunter fought through four personal fouls, having added 17 points. Following the injury to Chloe Bibby, Espinoza-Hunter has become comfortable as a starter. Head coach Vic Schaefer had to make a decision following her third foul, and decided to keep her in the game, which spoke volumes. Expect Espinoza-Hunter to see the floor frequently going forward.
Finally, the guard play of senior duo Jazzmun Holmes and Jordan Danberry. Holmes, who has excelled at the point, dropped eight points and five assists. Danberry filled the stat line with 12 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Holmes has embraced the role of facilitator and Danberry continues to score at will.
Both tend to play their best in the biggest games on the brightest stage, as they took advantage of a heated rivalry, leading to an SEC title. Mississippi State gave it all and proved that they are just as good as anyone in the top five. Big things to come.