Mississippi State University Coach Vic Schaefer Photo courtesy MSU Athletics
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Maybe this bodes well for Mississippi State, with Southeastern Conference play starting next month.
Teaira McCowan scored a career-high 24 points and had 13 rebounds to lead the No. 9 Bulldogs over Western Michigan 90-68 on Sunday in the Puerto Rico Classic.
McCowan, a 6-foot-7 freshman, was dominant in the post, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds and shooting 9 of 16 from the field. Victoria Vivians added 15 points for the Bulldogs (10-1) while Ketara Chapel had 11.
Meredith Shipman led Western Michigan (7-3) with 17 points. The Broncos made 29 of 36 (81 percent) free throws and kept the game close for much of the afternoon.
The Bulldogs led just 40-38 at halftime, but put the game away with a 27-11 advantage in the third quarter.
"We came out in the second half and played much, much better," said Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer, whose team has won five straight. "We probably played our worst half of the year (in the first half) and we were still up two."
In the third quarter, Chinwe Okorie had seven points and five rebounds and McCowan established a consistent presence in the paint.
McCowan looked like a star during the season's first few weeks, with three straight double-doubles against Grambling, Mississippi Valley State and Norfolk State.
But her production dipped sharply once the Bulldogs played better competition — and bigger players — in December. McCowan didn't play at all in Saturday's win against Florida Gulf Coast because of what Schaefer described as a bad matchup, but the coach gave her plenty of playing time against Western Michigan.
That changed Sunday when McGowan was again able to go to the offensive glass and finish and show a soft touch around the basket. She made 6 of 8 free throws.
"You just have to take advantage of it, produce and do as much as you can when you're in," McCowan said.
Said Schaefer: "When we can get her to play hard every possession and establish her presence inside it's just hard to get around her. You can make two left turns and you're still only halfway there. She's really coming along."
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs took 78 shots to just 42 for Western Michigan. ... McGowan has 41 offensive rebounds this year to 33 on the defensive boards.
Western Michigan: The Broncos were hurt by 17 turnovers and gave up 21 offensive rebounds. Western Michigan shot 10 of 20 from the field in the first half.
Mississippi State vs. SMU on Monday.
Western Michigan vs. Florida Gulf Coast on Monday.