CANCUN, Mexico – A strong finish lifted the No. 3 Mississippi State women’s basketball team to a 65-57 victory over No. 24 Arizona State in an opening-round game of the Cancun Challenge being played at Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Victoria Vivians led a trio of Bulldogs in double figures. Vivians scored 17 points, while Roshunda Johnson added 16 points and Teaira McCowan added 15 points. McCowan scored 13 points and grabbed eight of her 14 boards in the fourth quarter.
“(Jazzmun Holmes and McCowan) were the difference in the fourth quarter,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We outscored them 22-12. Offensively, we executed much better. We shot 50 percent in the fourth quarter. Our execution was critical. Teaira was dominant in the second half. She was great with offensive boards and defensive boards. She had a double-double in the second half.”
The Bulldogs (4-0) led by as many as 13 points late in the first quarter but an offensive drought to end the half meant a 29-28 deficit at halftime. State would also trail 45-43 entering the final quarter.
“After a couple of fouls early, I knew I had to come in and help my team,” McCowan said. “When they delivered me the ball, I knew I had to finish. My job was to play good defense. When my teammates delivered me the ball, I knew I had to score. It was a tight game and we needed the points.”
An 11-0 run helped the Bulldogs to an early 21-8 advantage. The Bulldogs were then held without a field goal over the final 7:45 of the half.
Things were nip-and-tuck throughout the second half. MSU would then take charge with the first eight points of the fourth quarter.
“We had some kids really gut it out today,” Schaefer said. “We made some big shots in the fourth quarter. Once we got some turnovers and some transition going, we were in good shape. Sometimes, we don’t wear the other team down until the fourth quarter.”
For the contest, MSU hit 25 of 61 shots from the field (41.0 percent), 3 of 10 shots from 3-point range (30.0 percent) and 12 of 18 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent). Arizona State hit 22 of 58 shots from the field (37.9 percent), 3 of 16 shots from 3-point range (18.8 percent) and 10 of 12 shots from the foul line (83.3 percent).
MSU held a 40-34 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 11 assists and 19 turnovers, while the Sun Devils had 10 assists and 18 turnovers.
Arizona State (4-1) received 13 points from Kianna Ibis and 10 points from Sabrina Haines.
MSU will continue its tournament play by facing Columbia at 10 a.m. CT Friday.