Howard leads No. 7 Mississippi St past No. 16 Kentucky 86-71
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State’s the highest-scoring team in the nation and that doesn’t happen by being a one-woman show.
Teaira McCowan might be the Bulldogs’ All-American anchor in the middle, but the Bulldogs proved once again that they can win even when she’s not having her best game.
Anriel Howard had 21 points and 12 rebounds, Chloe Bibby added 18 points and seventh-ranked Mississippi State beat No. 16 Kentucky 86-71 on Sunday.
Flanked by Howard and guards Jordan Danberry and Jazzmun Holmes at the postgame press conference, Bulldogs’ coach Vic Schaefer praised the toughness, quickness and savvy his veteran team displayed in an up-tempo, physical game.
“One of the things we do really well is get out and run,” Schaefer said. “If you want to make it a track meet, you need to be careful. These three right here can really get out, fill the lane, make some good decisions and finish.”
Howard’s production was particularly crucial because the 6-foot-7 McCowan spent much of the game in foul trouble. McCowan picked up her fourth foul with 5:40 left in the third quarter and Howard made several important baskets to keep Kentucky’s deficit in the double digits.
“She’s unbelievable,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said of Howard. “So aggressive, so tough.”
Mississippi State (14-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) has won four straight. Danberry added 17 points. McCowan had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Holmes had six steals.
Kentucky (14-2, 1-1) had its five-game winning streak snapped. The Wildcats were led by Maci Morris, who scored 20 points. Rhyne Howard added 15.
Mississippi State jumped out to a 26-11 lead in the first quarter, largely thanks to Howard’s 11 points and five rebounds. The 5-foot-11 senior has been a difficult defensive matchup for opponents all year because she’s often too strong to be defended by guards but too fast to be stopped by forwards on the perimeter.
“She’s your energizer bunny,” Schaefer said. “She’s just constantly moving, shaking and going to the boards.”
Mississippi State led 41-27 at halftime.
Schaefer was pleased that the Bulldogs played so well without McCowan on Sunday, but didn’t want to make a habit of going long stretches without the player he has affectionately called his “aircraft carrier.”
“It’s good to know you can still function, and really function at a high level, with her sitting over there on the bench,” Schaefer said. “Pleased with that, but we’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen with Teaira.”
Later he added: “She’s got to do a better job, I’ve got to do a better job of getting her ready, because we don’t like her sitting over there.”
McCowan’s foul trouble meant that freshman Jessika Carter played more than usual with 15 minutes. She had four points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
Kentucky: The Wildcats couldn’t recover from the slow start and several starters fought foul trouble. Kentucky’s a much-improved team this season, but isn’t particularly tall and might struggle against some of the SEC’s bigger teams.
Mississippi State: It’s another good win for the Bulldogs, who won despite not getting much from McCowan for big chunks of the game. The Bulldogs were dominant on the glass and finished with a 48-24 edge in rebounding.
Kentucky has another difficult road game against Tennessee on Thursday.
Mississippi State hosts Georgia on Thursday.