Rebels Fall to No. 3/4 Mississippi State, 76-45
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By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Standing 6-foot-7, Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan is a monstrous force on the interior for opponents to deal with, and was too much for Ole Miss to handle in a 76-45 loss to the Bulldogs in Starkville on Thursday night.
McCowan poured in 25 points on 12-of-13 shooting and snared 13 rebounds. She blocked four shots and posed as a pretty daunting obstacle for the Rebels trying to get to the rim.
"She is one of the best players in college basketball," head coach Matt Insell said. "She is so big in there. She is a tough player."
Mississippi State opened the game on a 14-0 run to get the 7,100 person crowd into the game early. Ole Miss was able to weather that storm and outscored the Bulldogs 9-8 in the last six minutes of the opening quarter. The Bulldogs made two early three-point shots to get them going. The Rebels won the second quarter 13-12.
"You take away the first five minutes of the game and I thought we played a pretty good first half," Insell said. "The second quarter we made a little push, but we have some soul searching to do. We have to grow up."
Madinah Muhammad led all Rebel scorers with 14 points. She has scored in double figures 15-of-17 games this season. Ole Miss is sorely missing Muhammad's partner in crime in the backcourt Shandricka Sessom. The senior forward was averaging 17.8 points per game at the time of her injury.
"We need that other scorer on the perimeter," Insell said. "We are missing 17 points per game. She is an all-league player and gets eight rebounds per game. You are missing you best shooter, your best rebounder and your best defensive player. You need that out there on the perimeter to take the pressure off."
Ole Miss shaved the margin to a seven-point game early in the third quarter, but Mississippi State ran away with the game after that. The Rebels had four consecutive empty possessions and struggled to slow McCowan down inside.
Blair Schaefer and Victoria Vivians had 14 and 15 points respectively for the Bulldogs and got after the Rebel guards on the defensive end of the floor.
"I thought we did a good job of hanging in there," Insell said. "But once we got there, we went four possessions with misses. It wasn't McCowan spiking it into the stands, it was us missing shots. We have the next two days off, but we have to have a better understanding of what it means to play at this level. When you are in a seven-point game against the number five team in the country, you have to put the ball in the hole."
The Bulldogs cut into the heart of the Ole Miss defense were regularly able to get looks near the rim. The Bulldogs out rebounded the Rebels 40-28. Despite it all, the Rebels hung around for a significant portion of the game against a team that was in the national championship game a year ago.
"We're in a tough stretch right now," Insell said. "If we can get through this month of January we will be fine."
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