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Sports >  NCAA basketball

Teaira McCowan leads No. 5 Mississippi St. over No. 9 Oregon, 90-79

Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians (35) protects the ball from Oregon forward Mallory McGwire (44) in the second half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., on Wednesday night. Mississippi State won 90-79. (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)
Mississippi State guard Victoria Vivians (35) protects the ball from Oregon forward Mallory McGwire (44) in the second half of their NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., on Wednesday night. Mississippi State won 90-79. (Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press)
By David Brandt Associated Press

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Teaira McCowan completely dominated the first half. After the break, Victoria Vivians took over.

Mississippi State might not be quite as deep as it was last season during its run to the NCAA championship game. But the Bulldogs’ stars proved they’re more than capable of carrying the team during a marquee matchup.

McCowan scored a career-high 35 points and Vivians added 30 to lead No. 5 Mississippi State over No. 9 Oregon 90-79 on Wednesday night.

“Tonight we were pretty good, especially offensively,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “I just think we’re hard to deal with offensively. I think people are having a hard time guarding us right now.”

The 6-foot-7 McCowan was nearly unstoppable, grabbing 19 rebounds and making 15 of 18 shots from the field. She blocked five shots and had 12 of her rebounds on the offensive end.

She scored 21 points and had 10 rebounds before halftime, scoring after offensive rebounds and off well-timed passes.

“When she’s like tonight – engaged and focused – she’s a monster,” Schaefer said. “You just can’t deal with her. But I need that daily, weekly, monthly. Every night. Don’t get bored with it.”

Mississippi State (10-0) also got a stellar performance from Vivians, who scored 26 points in the second half. She shot 10 of 15 from the field, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range.

She was shooting so well in the fourth quarter that on one possession she simply stopped five feet behind the 3-point line and let it fly. Nothing but net.

Mississippi State shot 54 percent from the field, including 62.5 percent in the third quarter during a big offensive push. Vivians said the Bulldogs are so good on offense because the threat of scoring can come from anywhere on the floor.

“We have great chemistry and (my teammates) are confident,” Vivians said. “They know they can shoot, so when it’s their opportunity to shoot, they’re going to knock a shot down.”

Oregon (8-2) was led by Ruthy Hebard, who scored 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The Ducks lost despite shooting 56 percent from the field. Satou Sabally added 17 points.

“Both teams were really good offensively, but the difference was we just didn’t really come to play defensively,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “We had a difficult time, obviously, with blocking McCowan out. She’s an incredible player and when she puts her mind to it, there’s really not a whole lot you can do down there.”

Big picture

Oregon: The Ducks had some good moments on offense, but couldn’t keep pace with the Bulldogs. They had trouble matching up with McCowan, who made some contested shots but also feasted on wide-open looks. Graves said it’s imperative that the Ducks figure out a way to guard bigger post players.

Mississippi State: It was an impressive night for the Bulldogs – especially McCowan and Vivians. The Bulldogs are lacking some depth in the frontcourt, but McCowan is playing so well it hasn’t mattered.

Vivians continued her efficient shooting. She was shooting 53 percent for the season before Wednesday and was 10 of 15 against the Ducks.

McCowan keeps improving

It’s the second time in about two weeks that McCowan has turned in an eye-popping statistical line. She had 31 points and 20 rebounds in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 29.

But the performance against Oregon was even more impressive considering the caliber of competition. McCowan came into the Oregon game averaging 15.4 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. She’s had at least 10 rebounds in eight straight games.

Up next

Oregon hosts Ole Miss on Sunday.

Mississippi State hosts Maine on Sunday.

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