Mississippi State and Baylor are one win away from dancing into the Final Four in Dallas. Both teams have dominant big players who can span the floor, control the pace and block shots. Both the Bulldogs and Bears can shoot lights out. Fans attending Sunday’s, Elite Eight game in Oklahoma City may want to buckle up, this could be an instant classic.
“(Mississippi State plays) in a conference where they’ve seen the bigs before in South Carolina,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “They’re big themselves. It’s going to make for a great Elite Eight game.”
Sunday’s meeting with No. 2 Mississippi State (32-4, 13-3 SEC), will be the eighth trip to the Elite Eight for Mulkey and the Lady Bears since she started coaching the team in 2000. Mississippi State and Coach Vic Schaefer are appearing in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Friday night in Oklahoma City the Bulldogs were lead by Teaira McCowan. She is a
sophomore with just four starts for Mississippi State under her belt. The Bulldogs have a deep bench that could give Baylor trouble when the two teams meet on Sunday. Baylor senior Nina Davis is an all-American who has started 143 games.
McCowan a 6-foot-7 is a true center. She lead the Bulldogs in scoring after going on a rampage in the 4th period. Davis a 5-11was instrumental in Baylor’s win over Louisville. She helped set the tone early and ended the night with a team-high 21 points plus seven rebounds in a 97-63 victory over No. 4 Louisville.
Davis is making her fourth appearance in the Elite Eight as a member of the Lady Bears. Baylor lost to Notre Dame in her freshman and sophomore seasons and to Oregon State last year.
“She had to do it all every night,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “We wanted to get help around her, to relieve some of that pressure.”
Mulkey has put the pieces around Davis that she hopes will continue to lead to success. Friday, Kalani Brown and Beatrice Mompremier combined for 26 points and 25 rebounds. Alexis Prince (14 points) and Kristy Wallace (12) led the way on the perimeter.
Prince was a freshman the last time Louisville and Baylor meet in the Sweet 16 here in Oklahoma City in 2013. Davis was a high school senior already committed to Baylor.
“I remember I was pretty disappointed just seeing it on TV,” Davis said. “I can’t imagine how bad it was for the players that were here.”
The Bulldogs and the Bears are playing their best basketball of the season right now. Mississippi Stare’s win over Washington ended the college career of Huskies senior Kelsey Plum, who scored 29 points. Plum has scored an NCAA-record 3,527 for her career.
The Washington Huskies lead the Bulldogs 50-48 at the end of the third quarter. McCowan started the final period scoring 16 consecutive points. She finished the game with 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 blocks.
“Tonight, we kind of emptied the playbook for T; we wanted to get her to her spots where she’s really comfortable,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “T continues to grow. She’s come so far, yet she’s got so far to go. Her upside is out of sight.”
Schaefer started McCowan for the first time this season in the NCAA tournament opener.
“McCowan is a really tough matchup,” Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. “She was very motivated. She got going, got really confident.”
Mulkey wasn’t surprised by McCowan’s success.
“Teaira McCowan lives in our backyard,” Mulkey said, referring to McCowan’s hometown of Brenham, Texas. “Watched her grow up. Unfortunately, you have to make certain decisions in recruiting; she’s in the same class as [Brown and Mompremier]. I’m proud and happy for her.”
Mulkey talked about her star senior forward taking her changing role in stride.
“She’s handled it like a trooper,” Mulkey said. “Selfish players that you see on TV — they want everything today. All this kid wants is a Final Four and a chance at a national championship. Send me those kind of kids, and I’ll coach ’em anytime.”
No. 2 Mississippi State faces No. 1 Baylor in the Elite Eight live from the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City Sunday. Tip-off is at 7:36 EST. Watch the game on ESPN/ESPN2 or the Watch ESPN GO app.
Oklahoma City, Ok