STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Coach Vic Schaefer has spent the majority of Teaira McCowan’s four-year career trying to get the most out of her enormous potential. For 40 glorious minutes on Thursday night, he saw every bit of it.
Mississippi State’s 6-foot-7 senior forward had one of the best games of her career, finishing with 26 points and 24 rebounds to lead the seventh-ranked Bulldogs over No. 15 South Carolina 89-74 at Humphrey Coliseum.
“Teaira McCowan — she’s one of the all-time greatest when she’s hooked up and playing,” Schaefer said. “She’s been really interested the last two ballgames. I like this side of T. She’s been really interested, very focused on technique and very determined.”
Mississippi State (17-1, 5-0) beat the Gamecocks for just the second time in 14 tries dating back to 2011. It was a tight game for most of the night, but the Bulldogs never trailed in the fourth quarter, largely thanks to McCowan’s dominant game in the post.
The All-American earned her 54th career double-double with one of her best performances. She had 12 offensive rebounds and shot 9 of 15 from the field. She matched South Carolina in rebounding all by herself, 24-24.
McCowan is just the second player in the SEC over the past 20 years to have five career games of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds according to ESPN, joining former LSU star Sylvia Fowles.
“My teammates found me,” McCowan said. “I knew coming in it was a big game, so I couldn’t take a night off. I just had to go and execute the game plan that the coaches gave me throughout the week.”
Jordan Danberry added 20 points for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina (12-5, 4-1) was led by Te’a Cooper’s 27 points. Tyasha Harris added 17. The Gamecocks shot a decent 44 percent from the field and hit 10 3-pointers, but were overwhelmed in the post.
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said McCowan’s night was amazing, but it was the other players — like Danberry — who made the difference.
“We can take a (big) night from Teaira,” Staley said. “It’s all the other guys who can’t get above their averages.”
Mississippi State had a 48-43 halftime lead. McCowan had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs before the break. Cooper had 16 points for the Gamecocks.
Mississippi State forward Chloe Bibby went down with an apparent left leg injury less than a minute into the game. She was in obvious pain, had to be helped off the floor and didn’t return.
The 6-foot-1 sophomore has been a key part of the Bulldogs’ starting lineup this season and one of the few consistent outside shooters. She’s averaging 12.6 points per game while shooting 45 percent from 3-point range.
Schaefer didn’t have an update on Bibby after the game, but admitted he’s worried the injury is serious.
“Chloe Bibby has worked her tail off to be where she is and to see that happen to her just rips your guts out — rips your heart out,” Schaefer said. “It’s very difficult.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had their eight-game winning streak snapped. South Carolina’s still a very good team, but McCowan exposed some deficiencies in the Gamecocks’ post game.
“It helps us,” Staley said. “This road loss helps us, even though we lost. It helps us in the RPI, it helps strength of schedule and that’s what playing in the SEC does.”
Mississippi State: This is the McCowan that the Bulldogs need if they’re going to make another run to the Final Four. She was unstoppable on the glass. Mississippi State’s new worry is how it’ll get outside shooting if Bibby is out for any length of time.
South Carolina returns home to face Missouri on Monday.
Mississippi State gets a week off before traveling to face Florida next Thursday.
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