Coming off of a 2017 National Championship appearance, Mississippi State women’s basketball is off to an undefeated, 20-0 start this season and will travel to Oxford this Sunday to take on Ole Miss.
The Rebels, who lost a close game to Florida State last Sunday and battled at Tennessee on Thursday night, are looking to recover from the tough loss and equally difficult road test against the Volunteers. Head coach Matt Insell has made adjustments throughout the season, hoping to assemble a tournament-ready team and pull out an unexpected win at home against his in-state rival.
Mississippi State’s Tearia McCowan, who scored 25 points in the previous meeting between the two teams, will certainly cause problems in the paint for Ole Miss. Facing one of the best players in women’s college basketball, the Rebels will have to put up a strong defense to pull out a win.
McCowan, a sophomore from Brenham, Texas, stands at 6-foot-7 and anchors the Bulldogs at center, accumulating more than 350 points this season alone. McCowan also leads the SEC with 13.2 rebounds a game and sits fifth in blocks with two on the year. She is always fighting for the rim and blocked four Rebel shots in the previous matchup, playing 25 total minutes in the game.
Junior Ole Miss guard Madinah Muhammad leads the team statistically, and although she is only 5-foot-8 in comparison to McCowan, it does not stop her from driving to the hoop and making her presence felt. Muhammad averages 17.2 points a game and, as the leading scorer for the Rebels, helps keep them competitive against more prominent teams. Muhammad scored 14 points in the last meeting with the Bulldogs and played 37 minutes in the loss. Even with Muhammad’s high scoring and aggressive on-ball defense, it was not enough for the Rebels to pull out a win as they fell short to the Bulldogs losing 76-45 earlier in January.
For Ole Miss to stay in the game, Insell’s team will need to start strong from the get-go. In the last rivalry bout, the Rebels sputtered out of the gate but began to find a groove by the end of the first half. The Rebels continued to put up a strong fight through the beginning of the second but ultimately lost control as the Bulldogs pulled away toward the end of the game.
But it will take more than just Muhammad playing her best game; it requires all hands on deck to play hard for 40 minutes and putting up a solid defense front – especially against McCowan. While only time will tell how the two teams match up, the improvements that Insell has installed for the Rebels since the last game against the Bulldogs could make all the difference.
The game will tip at 1 p.m. Sunday at The Pavilion and be broadcast on ESPNU.