NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) When Vic Schaefer became Mississippi State’s coach six seasons ago, a Southeastern Conference title seemed far away.
After all, it had never been done before.
On Thursday night, Teaira McCowan had 19 points and 11 rebounds and No. 2 Mississippi State earned a share of its first Southeastern Conference title with a 95-50 victory over Vanderbilt.
Article continues below ...
Consistent recruiting has been the key.
”If you’re going to do this, y’all, you’ve got to stack classes,” Schaefer said. ”You can’t get one good class and then go two or three years and get another. You’ve got to stack recruiting classes. You recruit, you retain and you develop and that’s been the secret to our success.”
The Bulldogs (27-0, 13-0) can win the regular-season championship outright with a victory over No. 17 Texas A&M on Sunday.
”It’s special, but I think this group is a little greedy,” Schaefer said. ”I think we’d like to go get it outright and I don’t think we’re interested in sharing rings with anybody.”
McCowan, a 6-foot-7 junior center, had her 19th double-double of the season. Senior guard Victoria Vivians also scored 19 points.
”Chemistry,” McCowan said when asked what the formula was for the unbeaten record. ”Knowing where people are on the court. Knowing who needs help and who doesn’t need help. And playing for each other.”
Vanderbilt, whose youthful lineup starts two freshmen, two sophomores and one senior, made 26 turnovers under constant pressure from MSU.
”Well, I think you see why they’re a national championship contending team,” Commodores coach Stephanie White said. ”It’s crazy to say, but they’re probably even better than they were last year. They have more balance, they’re shooting the ball from 3 particularly well. Of course, McCowan is a beast inside – just really tough to handle — and they defend the heck out of you.”
The Bulldogs made national headlines when they ended UConn’s 111-game winning streak at the Final Four semifinals in 2017, avenging a 60-point loss in the tournament the previous season.
MSU took second after falling to SEC champion South Carolina in the final.
Roshunda Johnson added 13 points, and Blair Schaefer had 12 for the Bulldogs, who outrebounded the Commodores 34-20. MSU boasted a 17-5 advantage on the offensive glass as it dominated play most of the way.
MSU hit 10 of 25 from beyond the 3-point arc, including four by Schaefer – daughter of coach Vic Schaefer.
The Bulldogs enjoyed their sixth-highest point total of the season. Jordan Danberry scored 10 points off the bench.
Vanderbilt (6-21, 2-11) suffered its fourth straight defeat and lost for the seventh time in eight games.
Christa Reed led the Commodores with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Kayla Overbeck added 12 points, shooting 6 of 7.
The Bulldogs outscored the Commodores 16-2 in second-chance points.
MSU took charge early by grabbing a 50-26 halftime lead after making 8 of its first 16 shots from 3-point range and outrebounding Vanderbilt 19-9 during the first two quarters.
Vic Schaefer said winning the SEC title might be harder than winning the national championship.
”To me, it’s the hardest thing to do,” Schaefer said. ”We made it to the national championship game a year ago, but when you go through and play 16 rival games in this conference, it’s so hard.
”It just beats you up. My kids are just so tough. They’re very resilient. Boy, they have a really good chemistry within this group. It’s pretty special.”
Vanderbilt’s players and cheerleaders wore pink uniforms in the annual Play4Kay game, a women’s cancer fundraiser founded in the vision of Kay Yow in 2007.
Yow coached North Carolina State from 1975-2009 before dying after a long battle with breast cancer in 2009.
MOMENT OF SILENCE
Vanderbilt held a moment of silence before the game to honor the victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting in South Florida and to show support for their families.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs dominated nearly every statistical category as they overwhelmed the Commodores. MSU entered the game with a 28.1 average margin of victory.
Vanderbilt: McCowan and Vivians were too much for the Commodores, who fell behind early and couldn’t stop the Bulldogs. Five Bulldogs scored in double figures.
Mississippi State: Hosts No. 17 Texas A&M on Sunday.