OXFORD, Miss. — Teaira McCowan didn’t have a great second half on Thursday night against the Bulldogs’ in-state rival. Anriel Howard did, and it was enough to push No. 6 Mississippi State past Mississippi 80-66.
It was a much tighter game than Mississippi State might have anticipated but a dominant third quarter helped the Bulldogs pick up their 11th straight victory in the series. Howard finished with a team-high 21 points, including 17 in the second half.
Ole Miss (9-18, 3-10 Southeastern Conference) kept things close throughout the first half, trailing 37-29 at the break. Mississippi State (24-2, 12-1) outscored the Rebels 26-14 in the third quarter to pull away.
“We just kind of hung around and really the third quarter was the difference,” Mississippi State head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought we came out and punched first and kind of had our foot on the pedal for a little while. . Defensively, I just thought we were miserable. We weren’t very competitive at times.”
The 6-foot-7 McCowan had a relatively quiet night, scoring two points in the second half. She did complete her usual double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Howard picked up the slack after halftime, shooting 6 of 8 from the field in the second half and finishing with 10 rebounds.
Jordan Danberry had 20 points and Bre’Amber Scott added 11 to give the Bulldogs four players in double-figures on the night.
Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said she tried to have her team play physical defence to keep McCowan from getting easy baskets in the paint. It worked for big chunks of the game, but even when McCowan wasn’t productive, Howard was finding ways to score.
The duo helped the Bulldogs maintain a 44-24 advantage in points in the paint and a 40-30 rebounding edge. Both teams shot 45 per cent from the field.
Crystal Allen led Ole Miss with 29 points and Mimi Reid added 11. Allen shot 10 of 19 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, to finish with her season high during conference play.
Schaefer said Mississippi State has plenty of room to improve over the coming weeks. The Bulldogs will have a showdown on the road against South Carolina in the regular-season finale on March 3.
“It’s a different group,” Schaefer said. “We go in in stretches where we play well then we’ll go in stretches where we’re just not very good. .We’ve got so much to play for and I just keep harping on the same things with this team. I love them to death but man they are stubborn. I’m not giving up, I’m not giving in. We’ve got so much to play for”
Mississippi State: After losing their only conference game to date against Missouri on Feb. 14, the Bulldogs have earned back-to-back wins to stay on top of the SEC standings.
Ole Miss: The Rebels are showing signs of improvement a year removed from winning one game in conference play and losing their last 12.
Mississippi State: Hosts Vanderbilt on Sunday.
Ole Miss: At Arkansas on Sunday.