The game is at 1 p.m. CT and can be watched on ESPN.
What to Watch For
The Bulldogs’ plan to contain Sabrina Ionescu
Ionescu has had a record setting season, as she has been a nightmare for the opposition. In the Ducks’ previous matchup against the Bulldogs, Ionescu had 29 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Vic Schaefer, one of the game’s best defensive minds will have a plan. While Mississippi State prides itself on defense, the Bulldogs will have to throw multiple looks at Ionescu.
Anriel Howard is elite defender that can matchup with all five positions. Look for her to keep Ionescu outside the paint. Both Howard and Ionescu stand at 5’11” and will be one on one for the majority of this game. If needed, Howard will also be assisted by Jordan Danberry and/or Jazzmun Holmes, both defense first guards.
The Bulldogs must keep Ionescu from driving to the lane. Ionescu will go right at Teaira McCowan, hoping to get her in foul trouble early. Ionescu is a savant when it comes to drawing fouls, as she was a perfect 17-17 from the line, a season high against Mississippi State. McCowan in foul trouble and Ionescu at line is a recipe for disaster, as the Bulldogs cannot afford either. If the Bulldogs can force Ionescu, an 88 percent free throw shooter, to force contested threes, that’s a win.
Teaira McCowan vs Ruthy Hebard
McCowan, the tournament’s all-time rebounding leader will have her hands full going up against Hebard. That said, she does have the height advantage. McCowan stands at 6’7” over Hebard at 6’4”. It will be a game of fouls, as that will be the deciding factor for the Bulldogs.
McCowan should command the boards, primarily on the offensive end. Arguably Mississippi State’s biggest strength, the Bulldogs capitalize on McCowan’s ability to create second chance opportunities. If McCowan is able to stay out of foul trouble and further limit Hebard’s minutes per drawing fouls, Mississippi State will have a significant advantage.
Expect numbers from McCowan, another double double as well as a few blocks and steals. Both she and Hebard are upperclassmen and know what’s at stake. The two boast experience combined with a wide skillset on both ends of the floor.
Oregon favored crowd
It is no mistake that most of the Moda Center will be in favor of Oregon. Just under two hours from Eugene, this should be considered a road game for Mississippi State. Though one of the Bulldogs’ two losses was to Oregon in Eugene, this is the NCAA tournament and a revenge game. Look for the Bulldogs to learn from their Sweet 16 victory over Arizona State and get off to a running start, ultimately showing up throughout.
To win, Mississippi State will have to score over 80, expect them to.
Mississippi State beats Oregon 84 - 81