No. 6 Mississippi St. pulls away late, beats Tennessee 91-63
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State lost to Tennessee three dozen times before finally winning its first game in the series in 2016.
Three years later, the Bulldogs are making victories over the Lady Volunteers a habit.
No. 6 Mississippi State used a 30-point fourth quarter to pull away for a 91-63 win on Sunday. Teaira McCowan had 24 points and 15 rebounds and Jordan Danberry added 20 points as the Bulldogs earned their biggest margin of victory in the series in front of 10,021 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
"I'm very proud of my team. They were special," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said.
The Bulldogs (22-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) have won 26 consecutive games in regular-season conference play. They've also won 32 straight at home with the last loss coming to Tennessee in 2017, which is their only loss against the Lady Volunteers in the last six tries.
The final score didn't indicate how tough this win was for the Bulldogs, who saw their lead dwindle to 47-44 midway through the third quarter. Mississippi State rallied to close the quarter with a 61-49 advantage.
A 13-0 spurt in the first three minutes of the final quarter sealed the victory. The Bulldogs scored 30 points in the final 10 minutes and held the Lady Volunteers to 14 points to close the game out.
"We talked going into the fourth quarter, we wanted to push that first five minutes," Schaefer said. "Man, did they push."
Tennessee's Rennia Davis scored 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting, including 18 in the first half. She was the main reason the game was close early. Mississippi State led 25-17 after one quarter and 40-34 at halftime.
"Rennia is a great player," Danberry said. "I tried my best but she had the hot hand. I was in attack mode and she was in attack mode."
Zaay Green had 13 for the Lady Vols (15-8, 4-6), who were without leading scorer Evina Westbrook because of a violation of team rules. In a statement, Westbrook said she missed a class.
Mississippi State took advantage of Westbrook's absence. McCowan had her 58th career double-double and 19th this season.
Anriel Howard had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Bre'Amber Scott scored 13 points off the bench while Andra Espinoza-Hunter added 11.
Tennessee struggled with Mississippi State's combination of size and speed. Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick believes the Bulldogs are as dangerous a team as there is in women's basketball.
"When you have a strong inside game and guards that are super quick, it's a big challenge," Warlick said. "You can't make a lot of mistakes. They grind it out, they're competitors and I don't see any reason they can't compete for a championship."
Tennessee: The Lady Vols were on a roll coming into Starkville, winning three straight after starting SEC play with a 1-5 record. Their improvement was evident until the wheels fell off in the fourth quarter.
Mississippi State: Any thoughts that the Bulldogs' offense was sputtering were put to rest on Sunday. Mississippi State scored over 80 points for the first time in two weeks. The Bulldogs are averaging 88 points per game, which ranks second nationally.
Tennessee hosts Auburn on Thursday.
Mississippi State hosts Missouri on Thursday.