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This week in the SEC: Mississippi State Bulldogs show teeth early in season of redemption

But can the runners-up in the 2018 NCAA Tournament get a key road win against the Tina Thompson-led Virginia Cavaliers tonight? Plus, a roundup of the other SEC happenings this week.

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NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Notre Dame vs Mississippi State
Teaira McCowan is off to a hot start for the Bulldogs so far in this 2018-19 season.
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Mississippi State Bulldogs tipped off their season against the Southeast Missouri Redhawks on Tuesday, Nov. 6. In a solid season debut, the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run late in the second quarter, which left the Redhawks in a scoring drought for almost three minutes.

By halftime, Teaira McCowan had a double-double, with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and the Bulldogs headed to the locker room with a 20-point lead.

The Bulldogs maintained this momentum after the half, taking the third quarter by double-digit scoring. But the Redhawks made a push and narrowed the scoring gap in the final period, losing it by just three points. But the damage was done. The Bulldogs left the building with a dominant 88-53 win.

McCowan finished with a game-high 24 points and a whopping 17 rebounds. Meanwhile, the entire Redhawks’ team grabbed 26 rebounds, with the Bulldogs out-rebounding their opponent 54-26 for the game.

But the win was possible because of a balanced offensive effort, with three other players scoring in double figures: Chloe Bibby and Jazzmun Holmes, with 11 points apiece, and Jordan Danberry, with 10. The Bulldogs scored 38 points in the paint to the Redhawks’ 12.

The Bulldogs were fierce on defense as well, making a ton of problems for the Redhawks all night:

  • Points off turnovers — 22-12
  • Second-chance points — 21-9
  • Fastbreak points — 16-4

Not a bad way for the Bulldogs to kick off their season of redemption.

If the team plays like this each time out, the Bulldogs have a chance to beat just about anyone — yes, even Notre Dame, who got past Mississippi State for the 2018 NCAAW Championship, and, yes, even the UConn Huskies. McCowan is a major threat under the basket on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, and many teams lack similar weapons with which to contend.

Also working in the Bulldogs’ favor is scoring depth. Anriel Howard scored nine points in the season opener. However, in an exhibition against Central Missouri on Nov. 2, Howard finished with game highs in scoring and rebounding, with 23 points and 11 boards.

Bulldogs in action

Next up for Mississippi State is an interesting Friday night contest against the Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavaliers may be ranked 33, but the team has as its new coach former WNBA star Tina Thompson, who won four consecutive champions with the Houston Comets and was recently inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But Thompson is not new to coaching. She was an assistant coach at University of Texas for three years before being promoted to Associate Head Coach.

Assisting her at Virginia is her longtime friend, Karleena Thompson, who most recently served as an assistant coach to the Michael Cooper-era Atlanta Dream. So, with this kind of coaching power leading the Cavaliers, the Bulldogs may face their first true test of the season. And playing such a hot Mississippi State team will serve as an important early assessment for Tina Thompson.

Game information

No. 5 Mississippi State Bulldogs at No. 33 Virginia Cavaliers

When: Friday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. ET

Where: John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA | TICKETS

How to watch: ACC Extra ESPN Network

Elsewhere in the SEC

With the likes of A’ja Wilson, Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis and Alaina Coates on the floor, the South Carolina Gamecocks could get away without a dynamic point guard. Now that those players have moved on to the WNBA, however, a true playmaker is needed and Head Coach Dawn Staley has landed Zia Cooke from Rogers High School in Ohio, who averaged 24 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists during her junior year.

Staley, a former guard herself, expects a lot out of her floor generals and Bianca Cuevas-Moore has not lived up to Staley’s standards, resulting in a rocky relationship between them, and Cuevas-Moore deciding in the spring to transfer to West Virginia, before ultimately changing her mind. So, it will be interesting to see what fruits ripen from the Dawn Staley coaching tree this season, with junior Tyasha Harris remaining the one to watch.

Which teams won their season openers?

The following teams won their season openers:

  • Alabama Crimson Tide
  • Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Auburn Tigers
  • Kentucky Wildcats
  • Louisiana State Lady Tigers
  • Ole Miss Rebels
  • Missouri Tigers
  • Texas A&M Aggies

The following teams lost their season openers:

  • Florida Gators
  • Vanderbilt Commodores

The following teams kick of their seasons tonight, Friday, Nov. 9:

  • Georgia Lady Bulldogs
  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Tennessee Lady Volunteers

Click here for information on how to watch.

SEC website