Head coach Vic Schaefer said after last Sunday’s game, he was going to find out how good his squad was in No. 5 Mississippi State University’s game against No. 9 Oregon.
MSU’s (10-0) dominating performance in their 90-79 victory over the Ducks (8-2) was an indication that MSU solidified themselves as one of the top teams in the country.
Oregon stayed within striking distance for most of the first half before MSU pulled away with a 15-7 run to end the first half, taking a 45-33 lead into halftime. Then, MSU went on a 14-4 run to start the third quarter, extending their lead by as much as 20.
MSU closed out the game, matching Oregon’s high powered offense shot for shot and walked away with an 11 point victory over a top 10 team.
“I was proud of our toughness and resilience tonight,” Schaefer said. “They (Oregon) are going to win a ton of games and they will have a heck of a season. They have so many good weapons over there.”
The Bulldogs exploded on offense tonight, making 53.8 percent of their shots and 43.8 percent of their shots from behind the three point line. They limited turnovers, committing just eight, while forcing 15 turnovers out of Oregon. The Bulldogs also out rebounded Oregon 29-27 and out scored them in the paint 50-44.
Two players dominated the night for MSU, junior center Teaira McCowan and senior guard Victoria Vivians. The two’s performance marked the first time two MSU players both scored 30 points in a game since MSU’s 1992 game against Texas Christian University.
McCowan took over the game early, scoring a career high 35 points and bringing in 19 rebounds. She also dominated on the defensive end, blocking five shots. She played with efficiency, making her first nine shots and finishing the night 15-18 from the floor.
“I told her before the game in pregame, T (Tearia McCowan) you can get as many as you want tonight,” Schaefer said. “I felt like if she wanted to go get 40 she could have gotten 40.”
Schaefer and teammate Morgan William talked about how much McCowan has changed and grown in her time at MSU. She talked about the biggest difference for herself this season.
“I am way different because I don’t allow myself to get in the way of what I am trying to do and the goal of my team,” McCowan said.
Going into the locker room at halftime, Vivians had four points to her name. In the second half, she scored 26 points bring her total to 30 by the time the final horn sounded. She did most of her damage from behind the three point line, going 5-8, seeming to make a three whenever Oregon was regaining momentum.
“We started out running some stuff for her (in the second half) and kind of got her in the flow,” Schaefer said. “I told there was not anybody in the gym that could guard her, and there wasn’t.”
Vivians said after the game the difference was she struggled to defend Oregon’s Ruthy Hebard, who led Oregon in scoring with 25 points, and was focusing on her defense, but went out with a changed mindset in the second half.
“I was trying to my best on her and I tried not to let it frustrate me,” Vivians said. “So I just went out and played basketball.”
Schaefer was right. This was the game where MSU fans found out if this was a team that could make another run at the final four, or if the loss of depth from graduating seniors and unexpected departures, either by injury of leaving school, would keep the team from that goal.
Schaefer talked about what he discovered in tonight’s game.
“I just think we are hard to deal with offensively,” Schaefer said. “I think people are having a hard time guarding us right now. They tried zone and man. When you score 90 points in a college basketball game you are doing some things right. They are confident. These kids are making shots. Our guard play is solid. We have four senior guards and they are setting the tone. You look out there on the floor and you see a presence, those kids have a presence.”
“I found out about my team tonight that when the lights are on, they are ready to compete,” Schaefer said.
MSU’s next matchup will be on Sunday against the University of Maine. Tip off is set for 2 p.m.