Vivians, Chinwe, McCowan power No. 5 MSU past Auburn, 77-47

Mississippi State guard Jazzmun Holmes (10) drives the baseline around Auburn guard/forward Katie Frerking (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Mississippi State was dominant early and downright overpowering late. In between, Auburn closed the gap, but it wasn’t nearly enough against the deeper, bigger Bulldogs.

Victoria Vivians scored 17 points and Chinwe Okorie added 16 to lead the fifth-ranked Bulldogs to a 77-47 win over the Tigers on Thursday night that was dominant everywhere but in the middle.

Mississippi State (22-1, 8-1 Southeastern Conference) built a big lead early, lost most of it and then muscled its way back into control with a 17-0 stretch extending into the fourth quarter. The Tigers (15-8, 5-4) went 5:32 without scoring after cutting the margin to six points.

”Their press, to me, is at an all-time frenzy,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. ”That’s the only way to describe it. As hard as they play, you’ve got to attack pressure with pressure. I think when we made that run, we finally started attacking pressure with pressure.”

Teaira McCowan scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half for Mississippi State, which closed on a 29-5 run. It was a mismatch inside with the 6-foot-5 Chinwe and 6-7 McCowan.

Chinwe was 6-of-7 shooting and McCowan made 6 of 9 attempts. They combined for eight offensive rebounds against the smaller Tigers.

Brandy Montgomery and Katie Frerking accounted for all but 17 of Auburn’s points. Montgomery had 17 points and made 3 of 5 3-pointers. Frerking scored 13.

”That’s just an uphill battle to come back, and we used a lot of effort and energy when we did that,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said. ”Mississippi State’s a very good team. It was just a tough night for us.”

Mississippi State’s bench outscored Auburn’s reserves 28-2, wearing the Tigers down.

Auburn cut an early 21-point deficit down to 48-42 on a free throw by Jazmine Jones with 2:24 left in the third quarter. Mississippi State responded with the big run powered largely by McCowan, who came in when Okorie picked up her third foul. Schaefer’s ”two-headed monster,” Okorie and McCowan, each had a dominant half against the undersized Tigers.

Morgan William, who had six assists, scored her only two baskets during that pivotal stretch. McCowan has made 32 of 41 shots over the last six games.

”They were being more aggressive than us,” Viviens said. ”In the third when they made that run, they were attacking and getting transition baskets. We had to turn around. They had gotten tired and (Schaefer) told us to start attacking and we started attacking.”

She missed practice Tuesday with an illness and rebounded to play 33 minutes.

”That’s what an All-American does,” Schaefer said.

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State has held 11 straight opponents below 65 points. The Bulldogs have won the last four meetings. Made 8 of 19 3-pointers and outrebounded Auburn 39-22.

Auburn has lost three of four games. Shot 18 of 51 (35.3 percent) from the floor. It matched the Tigers’ lowest scoring game, a 73-47 loss to No. 4 South Carolina.

FAST START

Okorie had 12 of Mississippi State’s first 17 points and the Bulldogs built a 32-11 lead early in the second quarter. Vivians opened the quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers.

”Before we came out to play, coach was like, `First five minutes, we need to come out and punch first,”’ Okorie said.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State starts a two-game homestand against Missouri on Sunday.

Auburn visits Texas A&M Sunday before another road game against No. 4 South Carolina.