McCowan leads No. 6 Mississippi St. past Virginia 72-44
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer doesn’t want the No. 6 Bulldogs to play all cupcakes to start the season.
He loves it, however, when he sees them make another Power Five level program look like pushovers.
Teaira McCowan had 12 points and 12 rebounds and No. 6 Mississippi State spoiled Tina Thompson’s debut as Virginia’s coach with a 72-44 victory Friday night.
Chloe Bibby added 13 points in the first half for the Bulldogs (2-0), who have played in the national championship game each of the past two seasons. They came out like they have designs on doing it again, scoring 18 of the game’s first 20 points, leading 45-17 by halftime and forcing 17 first-half turnovers.
“That’s the best half we’ve played all season, all practice, all anything,” said Schaefer, who is in his seventh season. “From an execution standpoint, I was really pleased with what we were doing and how we were doing it.”
The Bulldogs stumbled a bit after halftime, getting outscored 18-10 in the third quarter, but salted the game away with ease in the final 10 minutes.
Dominique Toussaint led Virginia (0-1) with 19 points. The Cavaliers were 4 for 15 from the field in the first quarter with eight turnovers, then 2 for 16 with nine turnovers in the second quarter.
“That’s working,” Schaefer said of his team’s defense at the start. “We’re not standing around hoping they miss.”
The Bulldogs also got 13 points from Andra Espinoza-Hunter. Mississippi State scored the first 11 points of the game and had a 16-0 run to open the second quarter that gave them a 42-13 lead. Their six 3-pointers in the first half matched Virginia’s total number of field goals in the half.
Thompson, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer who spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Texas, said she thought nerves were a factor in the slow start, but she was encouraged by how the Cavaliers played after halftime.
“It’s something that we can reference because that is who we are and when we play like that, we’re a different team,” she said. “When we play like we did in the first half — no team in the country can give themselves a chance if we play like that.”
McCowan won the game, but didn’t dominate in her matchup with Virginia’s 6-foot-9 Felicia Aiyeotan.
The 6-foot-7 McCowan was 5 for 10 from the field with two assists and four blocks.
Aiyeotan finished with just 4 points but grabbed 16 rebounds and also blocked four shots.
Mississippi St.: The Bulldogs last year became the first SEC team to go unbeaten in the regular season and they look poised to be dominant again behind All-American center Teaira McCowan, but it might be until they play at Texas on Dec. 2 that an opponent really puts them to the test.
Virginia: Thompson, hired when Joanne Boyle retired to attend to a family matter, pledged that the Cavaliers would be more offensive minded this season while continuing to make defense a priority, but they came up short on both counts against the taller, more talented Bulldogs. They also missed several shots from in close, a carry-over-from-last-year tendency that Thompson and her coaching staff have addressed extensively.
Virginia finished with 24 turnovers leading to 26 Bulldogs points. Mississippi State’s 12 turnovers led to 11 Virginia points. ... Virginia outrebounded the Bulldogs 43-41, including a 19-14 edge on the offensive end, and outscored them 16-13 on second chance opportunities. ... Khyasia Caldwell had a night to forget for Virginia, missing 10 of her 11 field goal attempts and turning the ball over six times. Jocelyn Willoughby was 1 for 6 from the field and also had six turnovers.
Mississippi State: Home against Lamar next Thursday.
Virginia: On the road at Kentucky next Thursday.
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