How sweet it is. No. 1 Mississippi State University (32-2, 15-1 SEC), defeated the No. 9 seed, Clemson University (20-13, 9-7 ACC), 85-61 punching their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen in Portland, Oregon.
In Portland, MSU will play against No. 5 Arizona State. This will be MSU’s fourth-straight year appearing in the Sweet Sixteen, which made the senior sendoff even better.
Head coach Vic Schaefer talked about how he wanted more aggression from his team after the win against Southern University Friday night. The Bulldogs responded to his request by dominating defensively throughout the entire game and diving for loose balls.
MSU finished with 23 forced turnovers, accompanied by 42 rebounds and 52 points in the paint. The Bulldogs also held the Tigers to only 22 points after two quarters of play, and had four steals in the first half of the first quarter.
“We watched film and showed some film from when we have been aggressive,” Schaefer said. “Our practices are pretty aggressive, we try to get after it. Defensively for us, we like to take people out of what they want to do.”
Teaira McCowan, a senior guard from Brenham, Texas, led MSU in scoring with 30 points accompanied by 11 rebounds and 6 blocks. McCowan also became the first SEC player since Kentucky’s Victoria Dunlap to score 30 points and 10 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.
McCowan was 14-17 from the field, and made 2-6 from the free throw line. Sunday night was the last home game for the guard, and it ended in a perfect fashion by her serving a one-of-a-kind McCowan block on a Clemson defender.
“It was pretty special getting to play my last home (game) here at the Hump,” McCowan said. “It was a great way to seal the deal. I got the block and then my substitute came, and the rest was history.”
Another Bulldog who had a fantastic night was Anriel Howard, a graduate student from Atlanta, who finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Howard showed the grit Schaefer requested by driving to the goal and contending against Clemson defenders. Howard finished the night going 6-12 from the field and 9-9 from the free-throw line.
“I just try to find the open spot,” Howard said. “I knew I wanted to attack them.”
Senior guard from Conway, Arkansas, Jordan Danberry had an explosive performance, closing out her final home game by scoring 18 points, five rebounds and three steals. Danberry went 8-14 from the field and 2-4 from the free-throw line.
After Sunday night’s win against Clemson, seniors Jazzmun Holmes and McCowan tied the school record for career games played, 148, which was set by former players Morgan William and Victoria Vivians last season.
With two games down and four more to go, Schaefer mentioned how the team must continue to do their best and what they have done thus far in the season.
“The journey has been really special,” Schaefer said. “I’m going to try and get them there. I believe in them.”
MSU is set to play No. 5 Arizona State University March 29 Portland Regional at the Moda Center. Tip-off time and broadcast information will be announced.