The Mississippi State University's women’s basketball team has looked very impressive in their first two games, with wins against opponents Southeast Missouri State University and University of Virginia.
Of course, the outstanding play by senior center Teaira McCowan has a lot to do with those victories, but there have been some new factors bringing the Lady Bulldogs more help than the team could ask for.
Transfers Andra Espinoza-Hunter and Anriel Howard have proved they are meshing well in head coach Vic Schaefer’s system and have been terrific in helping the team execute their dominance in the NCAA.
Espinoza-Hunter, who transferred from University of Connecticut, has only played one game, but she demonstrated how well she can play by putting up 13 points and having a 37.5 three-point percentage going 3-8 from beyond the arch against Southeast Missouri. Espinoza-Hunter said she was shocked when she heard the news that she could play this season, instead of sitting out like most transfers.
“I definitely was surprised,” Espinoza-Hunter said. “I started crying, actually.”
Schaefer said he felt like every transfer should be a case-by-case decision for being eligible to play.
“We’ve been working on it for a long time,” Schaefer said. "I just felt like it was the right thing to do for the kid (Espinoza-Hunter) and her family."
Schaefer also weighed in on what Espinoza-Hunter brings to the team, mainly being her excellent scoring ability, as she adds more depth to the team offensively.
“She adds another shooter…She has a scorer’s mentality," Schaefer said. "The biggest thing right now is that she give us another scoring option that people are going to have to pay attention to.”
Espinoza-Hunter said it was a wonderful feeling to finally wear the maroon and white uniform of MSU as she played in her first game against Virginia.
“It was perfect,” Espinoza-Hunter said. "It just felt so amazing to wear Mississippi State across my chest."
Anriel Howard, a graduate student, is no stranger to MSU, as she has played against the team when she was a part of the Lady Aggies of Texas A&M. The fifth-year forward has put up numbers her entire career, having averages of 8.9 points, 9.6 rebounds and a block a game during her tenure at TAMU.
Howard said she appreciates how she and Tiara McCowan have the same attitude, as they often face each other in practice.
“It’s fun,” Howard said. "I like how both of us have that tenacious attitude to get the rebound."
Howard is thankful for her fellow transfer teammate, as she said Espinoza-Hunter brings a great energy to the team, and her shot is also something that sticks out to Howard.
"She’s an excellent shooter, and we definitely needed that," Howard said. "I think her attitude is very positive and it brings a spark to the team that we also may needed.”
Espinoza-Hunter said Howard, also known as “Lashes” to the team, brings a high level of athleticism, but also has a positive energy that makes the team better as a whole.
“Definitely her athleticism, obviously. She can jump out of the roof, but also her energy, her aura, her positivity," Espinoza-Hunter said. "It’s so infectious. There are times where I might be down or tired during practice and I just know Lashes (Espinoza-Hunter) is there to give me a pat on the back or crack a little joke to put a smile on my face.”
It may be early in the season, but these two additions to the Lady Bulldogs have showed they mean serious business and want to put not only the SEC, but the entire NCAA on notice that they are more determined than ever to make a trip back to the Final Four as they will try to bring a national title to Starkville.