Let the confetti rain. Mississippi State University women’s basketball team reeled in the program’s first Southeastern Conference title with a 101-70 victory over Arkansas (20-14, 6-10 SEC) Sunday afternoon. Just one week after clinching the SEC title outright, the Bulldogs added yet another achievement to their 2018-2019 campaign.
Head coach Vic Schaefer said the victory was about his players in a press release.
“As a coach, I've done this a long time,” Schaefer said. “We've cut down some nets. I've cut down a lot of nets in my career. In this particular venue, in this game, in this conference, as a head coach, that moment has eluded me. It's about those kids. To see the fruits of their labor come to fruition. As a coach, it's why you do what you do. It's just a very rewarding moment for me as a coach to see those kids.”
No. 5 Mississippi State (30-2, 15-1 SEC) showed everyone why they won the SEC outright Sunday afternoon after playing lights out and shooting for over 70 percent in the first half of the game, which would set the tone for a MSU victory. The Bulldogs set a school tournament scoring record and shot an overall 62.5 percent (40-of-64). The Bulldogs had three players score 20 or more points, which is something MSU had not seen since the 1999 season, but something the Bulldogs have accomplished twice this year.
Contributing to the record-setting scoring was senior center from Brenham, Texas, Teaira McCowan who was named tournament MVP. McCowan scored 24 points and went 11-15 from the field goal. Accompanying her double figures were three assists and three blocks. Prior to the SEC Tournament semifinals, McCowan was named a finalist for the Wooden Award.
Another big component to the Bulldogs’ victory was sophomore guard from Ossining, N.Y., Andra Espinoza-Hunter. Espinoza-Hunter scored 24 points to tie her career high and to tie for team leading scorer. She also broke the SEC Tournament record for three pointers made in a single game at eight. The previous record was seven in 2011.
Accompanying her teammates with scoring 20 points was sophomore guard from Little Rock, Ark., Bre’Amber Scott. Scott recorded double-digits for the 11th time this season, with this being her second game scoring 20 points. Scott went 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from behind the arc and contributed in rebounding scoring three.
Another Bulldog who set a tournament record was senior guard from Gulfport, Miss., Jazzmun Holmes who recorded 12 assists, just one shy of her career high while breaking MSU’s previous SEC Tournament record of eight. Holmes finished the tournament with 18 total assists and two turnovers. She was named to the all-tournament team along with McCowan and Anriel Howard.
With MSU’s 31-point victory, the Bulldogs surpassed the previous school record in the tournament of 21 set in 1988. It was Mississippi State’s seventh 100-point performance this year and its ninth time winning by 30 or more points.
As the confetti shimmered, the Bulldogs now await seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Although they dominated the SEC Tournament, the squad knows the hard work is not over and they must continue playing with the same commanding energy that got them to this point. The bracket will be announced at 6 p.m. March 18 on ESPN.