Oklahoma City, OK — When the fourth quarter began, the No. 2 seeded Mississippi State Bulldogs found themselves down to the No. 3 seeded Washington Huskies, 50-48. Teaira McCowan, the Bulldogs dynamic center, had six points.
What a difference ten minutes can make.
After being down by two, the Bulldogs would go on to defeat Washington by 11, 75-64, on the back of McCowan. She finished the night with a staggering 26 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
Not enough can be said about McCowan’s performance. No description would be hyperbole.
In the opening two and a half minutes of the quarter, she rattled off 11 points. From that point on she was unstoppable in the paint, whether it be layups or jumpers. It was clear in the final 10 minutes that the Huskies were too tired to find any counter for McCowan.
And if you haven’t been doing the math, McCowan outscored the Huskies herself in the fourth quarter, 20-16. Most of her points came off of a series of offensive putbacks, as she was no doubt the force behind Mississippi State outrebounding the Huskies 49-34.
But McCowan didn’t stop on offense. The defensive presence of her 6’7” frame became too much inside for Washington, as she recorded four blocks in the last ten minutes.
With the loss, the career of Washington’s Kelsey Plum, the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history, comes to an end. Plum ended the night with a game-high 29 points.
In a game that was defined entirely by runs and momentum, Mississippi State had more runs at more important times.
Washington came out in their typical offensive firestorm and had a 20-13 lead after the first quarter. Plum and Aarion McDonald started the game off hitting two three’s apiece as the Huskies took a quick 12-3 lead in the first three and a half minutes.
Mississippi State adjusted their defense accordingly, tweaking their stifling full court press. Most importantly, they held Plum to just 2-9 shooting in the first half, with zero field goals in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs also completely dominated on the boards, outrebounding the Huskies 25-13 in the first half and getting their fair share of second (and third) chance shots. Combine their defense and rebounding with the stellar shooting of Victoria Vivians, who finished the night with 13 points, and it was as if the game did an 180-degree turn as Mississippi State ended the half up nine.
After halftime, Washington became more comfortable in their offense, and more specifically their transition offense. Plum started out scoring eight points in the first five minutes of the third, showing that she was far from stifled by the Bulldog’s defense.
But even more critical for Washington was the performance of Chantel Osahor. She finished the night with a double-double behind her 17 points and 11 rebounds, six of which she grabbed in the third. It was because of Osahor that the Huskies outrebounded the Bulldogs 12-9 in the quarter.
As a result, Washington went into the last 10 minutes with their 50-48 lead, before McCowan took over.
Mississippi State will take on the winner of the Louisville/Baylor game on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. EST.