Strong second half surge helps State women finish off Lamar

Mississippi State's Anriel Howard takes a shot.

Staff Writer

Coach Vic Schaefer prides himself in having an offense that protects the basketball and by the first media timeout on Thursday, he had already shed his jacket in frustration.

Lamar gave No. 6 Mississippi State fits for the first 20 minutes of the game turning the Bulldogs over 11 times by halftime with 10 steals. A seven-point advantage at the break was all the motivation that Mississippi State needed to turn things around in the second half.

The Bulldogs (3-0) scored 69 second-half points and took care of the basketball much more efficiently as they cruised to a 104-53 blowout in a tale of two halves.

“I’m very pleased with the second half and extremely disappointed with the first half,” Schaefer said. “We just turned it over too much. 20 turnovers is way too big a number. We’ve got to learn to take care of the ball better.”

The talent of the roster was a problem for Lamar as the game wore on. Mississippi State had five different players score in double figures led by first-team All-Southeastern Conference post players Anriel Howard and Teaira McCowan both notching double-doubles.

For Howard, it was her biggest night as a Bulldog as the Texas A&M grad transfer poured in 24 points and 13 rebounds.

Howard scored 21 of those points in the second half.

“I think the first quarter I didn’t come out aggressive on offense like I could have,” Howard said. “I felt like I had to help out a little bit more.”

McCowan had 11 points and 16 rebounds for her ninth-straight double-double dating back to last season.

The Cardinals (3-1) were led by Chastadie Barrs, who had 16 points and four steals, but they were out-rebounded 64-32 as Mississippi State’s size was too commanding.

The defensive presence was still felt for Lamar. The nation’s leading steals squad, the Cardinals stole 14 passes from the Bulldogs, which was the most by an opponent since 2015.

“I think that we played really well for the first two quarters, but we played a really good team and the wheels came off in the second half,” Lamar coach Robin Harmony said. “They got to the cup the entire time in the second half and they made their shots.”

After leading 35-28 at halftime, MSU blew the doors off in the third quarter with a 42-15 advantage, carrying an 18-0 run at one point. The Bulldogs out-scored the Cardinals 69-28 in the second half to leave no doubt.

Along with Howard and McCowan in the post was a huge boost from freshman center Jessika Carter. As the game wore on, the Georgia native became more and more confident to dominate in the paint and she finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots in 18 minutes, all a career high.

“I’m really proud of Jess," Schaefer said. "I thought she was special. She’s going to be a monster. The good thing for her is she has some veterans at the four and five that she can learn from right now.”

MSU also had double-digit scoring games from Jordan Danberry, who had 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and 11 points from Chloe Bibby. Jazzmun Holmes finished with nine assists, nine points, five rebounds and just two turnovers.

Up next for the Bulldogs is Coppin State on Sunday at 2 p.m. and they will raise the Final Four banner during the pre-game presentation.