No. 7 Mississippi State rallies past Georgia 80-71
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer had plenty of complaints about his team. There were a bunch of defensive lapses. Questionable shot selection. Spotty energy.
But his Bulldogs earned one major compliment Thursday night: During the final few pressure-packed minutes against upset-minded Georgia, they came through.
“When it got down to crunch time for us, we didn’t blink, we didn’t flinch,” Schaefer said. “I thought our veterans really answered the bell.”
Chloe Bibby scored a career-high 24 points, Teaira McCowan added 18 points and 21 rebounds and No. 7 Mississippi State survived a scare from Georgia with an 80-71 win.
Mississippi State (15-1, 3-0) Southeastern Conference) needed a rally in the final minutes after finding itself in the rare position of trailing at home. Mississippi State was behind 68-65 with six minutes left before scoring the next 11 points.
Anriel Howard added 18 points, including five during the decisive rally. Jazzmun Holmes finished with just seven points, but scored all of them in the final six minutes.
Georgia (11-5, 2-1) trailed 42-33 at halftime, but pulled within 59-57 by the end of the third quarter. Georgia went ahead 64-63 early in the fourth quarter after Taja Cole made a layup while being fouled and also made the free throw.
But the opportunity for an upset faded with some rushed possessions in the final minutes. The Bulldogs’ 22 turnovers were also a problem.
“We just went cold,” Georgia coach Joni Taylor said. “I can think of two shots that were quick shots, but I don’t even know if they were bad shots. We got some good looks, they just didn’t go in.”
Caliya Robinson led Georgia with 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting.
“If we had just played in that final stretch the way we played in the beginning, we would have had it,” Robinson said.
Mississippi State’s halftime advantage was largely thanks to Bibby’s 17 points. The Australian forward was 5 of 7 from the field before the break, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range.
Georgia shot 14 of 24 (58.3 percent) from the field in the first half, but also had 14 turnovers.
STATS DON’T TELL THE STORY
McCowan stuffed the box score — her 21 rebounds included 13 on the offensive end. But Schaefer wasn’t pleased with his 6-foot-7 senior forward.
His reasoning centered on the defensive end, where Georgia got several easy looks close to the rim while McCowan was nowhere to be found.
“Teaira wasn’t very good,” Schaefer said. “She’s got some great numbers but really, defensively, she struggled.”
Georgia: The Bulldogs had their chances and had a terrific offensive night, shooting better than 60 percent from the field well into the fourth quarter. Taylor will likely be frustrated with her team’s play down the stretch, but this game is still a sign that her team could be a factor in the SEC.
“We had a really good game plan and I think our ladies executed the game plan offensively,” Taylor said. “They knew when they were supposed to take shots. They knew when they were supposed to get the ball to certain people. And for the most part — 36 out of 40 minutes — we did that really well.”
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs got a big scare on their home floor after looking disinterested for a big chunk of the night. Howard and McCowan came alive in the final minutes to help secure the win. Bibby’s scoring touch could be a bonus for Mississippi State in SEC play.
Georgia returns home to face Tennessee on Sunday.
Mississippi State travels to face Auburn on Monday.