Historic performance delivers Bulldogs’ first SEC Tournament title

Historic performance delivers Bulldogs’ first SEC Tournament title

GREENVILLE, SC (WLBT) - The confetti finally rained down on Vic Schaefer and Mississippi State. Teaira McCowan and Andra Espinoza-Hunter scored 24 points apiece, and the top-seeded Bulldogs claimed their first SEC Tournament Championship in dominating fashion over Arkansas by a score of 101-70 on Sunday afternoon in Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

“As a coach, I've done this a long time,” Schaefer said. “We've cut down some nets. I've cut down a lot of nets in my career. In this particular venue, in this game, in this conference, as a head coach, that moment has eluded me. It's about those kids. To see the fruits of their labor come to fruition. As a coach, it's why you do what you do. It's just a very rewarding moment for me as a coach to see those kids.”

State (30-2, 15-1 SEC) set a school tournament scoring record and shot a blistering 62.5 percent (40-of-64), including 73.3 percent in the first quarter that set the tone for the day. McCowan, who was named tournament MVP, took control in the first quarter during an 18-0 run beginning at the 6:06 mark. The Bulldogs scored 12 of their first 15 points in the paint with McCowan chipping in six during the spurt.

The Bulldogs used a 12-4 run to end the half, taking a 54-34 lead at the break. At the midway point, MSU had scored more points in the paint (36) than Arkansas (20-14, 6-10 SEC) had scored anywhere on the floor. McCowan had 18 points in the first half alone, and the Dawgs shot 71.9 percent (23-of-32) from the field.

In the second half, the Bulldogs used an outburst of three-point shooting to pull away. The Bulldogs went 8-of-12 from behind the arc (66.7 percent) in the second half, and made an MSU SEC Tournament record 12 three-pointers in the game.

Espinoza-Hunter set a tournament single-game record with eight three-pointers, breaking the previous mark of seven set on three different occasions. Seven of her threes came in the second half.

Jazzmun Holmes dished out 12 assists, coming just one shy of her career high, while breaking MSU’s previous SEC Tournament record of eight. Holmes finished the tournament with 18 total assists and just two turnovers. She was named to the all-tournament team along with McCowan and Anriel Howard.

Bre’Amber Scott scored 20 points to give the Bulldogs three players with 20 or more points. State had not seen three players reach that mark since 1999 entering the season. The Bulldogs have now done so twice this year. Howard (11) and Jordan Danberry (24) rounded out the players in double figures.

MSU’s 41-point margin of victory, easily surpassed the previous school record in the tournament of 21 set in 1988. It was State’s seventh 100-point performance this year and its ninth time winning by 40 or more points.

The Bulldogs will now await seeding in the NCAA Tournament. The bracket will be announced on Monday, March 18 at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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