There was pure domination on the court, as the No. 1 seed, Mississippi State Bulldogs (31-2, 15-1 SEC), defeated the No. 16 seed, Southern University Jaguars (20-13, 14-4 SWAC), 103-46. Sealing the win against the Jaguars, MSU solidified their slot in the second round of the women’s tournament, where they will play No. 9 Clemson Tigers.
The Bulldogs finished the night with 17 steals, 51 rebounds and 58 points in the paint. The squad also had five players scoring in the double digits.
Opening up play, the Bulldogs came out of the gate dominating their opponent defensively and getting them to play in accordance with their tempo, holding the Jaguars to only 10 points at the end of the first half. Head coach of Southern, Carlos Funchess, said MSU applied unstoppable defensive pressure in the beginning.
"They put so much pressure on you defensively, especially on the boards," Funchess said. "It’s hard to go at those other kids. They did a great job. They’re one of the top teams in the country for a reason."
Leading the Bulldogs in scoring was Anriel Howard, a graduate student forward from Atlanta who finished with a double-double and put 23 points and 12 rebounds on the board, shooting 7-13 from the field and 8-10 from the free-throw line.
Not too far behind Howard’s stellar performance was Teaira McCowan, a senior guard from Brenham, Texas, who also scored a double-double, finishing the night with 22 points, 16 rebounds and two steals. Although McCowan got a little banged up as the game went on and got more physical, it did not stop her from creating points for her team.
"It was physical down there, but I know I can’t go down and run anyone over, so I’m not going to force my way in," McCowan said. "They were keeping me in one spot, so I just tried to spin off and get to the other side as quick as I could."
Another Bulldog who had a fantastic night was Bre’Amber Scott, a sophomore guard from Little Rock, Arkansas, who was 5-9 from the field and went 8-8 from the free-throw line. Scott finished the game with 18 points accompanied by four rebounds, two assists and four steals. Scott, who is not used to seeing as many minutes as she did Friday night, made the most out of her time on the court.
"Sometimes I play the three or the four, I can come in for Jordan (Danberry) or Howard, or Andra (Espinoza-Hunter), and so I’ve been working on it in practice," Scott said. "I play the four in practice, and then I’ve played the three, so he’s (Schaefer) really prepared me for the way I produce and I’m just getting the opportunity to do it now."
Despite a night of success by both individual players and the team, Schaefer was still frustrated with how his team played. He said they played great the first and third quarters, but he claimed they did not in the second and fourth.
"They have the opportunity to be the best team that I’ve ever coached. But they fight me on it so much," Schaefer said. "It’s almost like it gave me something to complain about at halftime. I was really pleased with how we jumped out. I put it on the board, 'Respect your opponent. Respect the game.'"
Schaefer said he does not apologize for being so demanding of his team and he hopes they will be more focused during Saturday's practice on the task at hand, facing No.9 seed Clemson. The Bulldogs will take on Clemson at 8 p.m. March 24. ESPN will broadcast the game.