No. 4 Mississippi State to face No. 7 Oregon, Washington on West Coast trip

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, December 18, 2018

After a quick stop in Hattiesburg, Mississippi State’s women’s basketball team is resuming its difficult road through the early part of its schedule.

The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (10-0) will head to the West Coast this week for a pair of games against Pac-12 opponents. First up is No. 7 Oregon (8-1) on Tuesday night, followed by a visit to Washington (7-4) on Thursday. Tuesday’s game will be televised on ESPN2 at 9 p.m.

The showdown with Oregon will be Mississippi State’s third in four games against a top 25 opponent. The Bulldogs won the first two, against No. 12 Texas and No. 19 Marquette, and will now try to complete the non-conference part of their schedule undefeated for the second year in a row.

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“I knew the schedule would get hard in a hurry, with Texas, Marquette and then having to go on the road for three,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said last week, before the Bulldogs won 86-42 at Southern Miss in the first leg of a three-game road trip. “You’re wanting to get your kids’ attention that, hey, this is coming. This is just like SEC play. We’re just getting it three weeks early. Let’s start preparing so that when we get back from Christmas we know what it looks like.”

Mississippi State beat Oregon 90-79 last season in Starkville. Oregon bounced back to reach the Spokane Regional final in the NCAA Tournament, and is off to another good start this season.

Led by Sabrina Ionescu (20.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 8.2 assists per game), the Ducks rank first in the country by scoring 92.4 points per game. Mississippi State is second, at 92.3.

“I’m still trying to figure out this team. We’re averaging 93 points per game and I don’t think we’re that good offensively,” Schaefer said.

Despite Schaefer’s belief, the stats indicate otherwise. With 6-foot-7 center Teaira McCowan dominating the middle and Texas A&M transfer Anriel Howard crashing the boards alongside her, the Bulldogs have developed a potent one-two punch.

McCowan is averaging 18.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. Howard is averaging 14.7 points and 8.6 rebounds.

“I love her passion for rebounding, she loves the dirty work,” Schaefer said after Friday’s win over Southern Miss. “She embraces that, which we desperately need.”

Howard scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in another impressive all-around performance against Southern Miss. McCowan had 13 points and 16 rebounds, including nine offensive rebounds.

“I think the chemistry is definitely building with Teaira and my other teammates,” Howard said after Friday’s game. “I feel like day by day I’m learning more about our personnel on the court and even off the court, which is making me more comfortable.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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