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Ionescu’s Court: Can the Bulldogs beat the Ducks?

Can Oregon Women’s Basketball finally get over the hump?

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Portland Regional-Oregon vs South Dakota State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

At 11 AM PT on ESPN, the 1-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs will attempt to avenge their earlier loss to the Fighting Ducks of Oregon!

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Portland Regional-Mississippi State vs Arizona State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

SEASON THUS FAR

RECORD: 33-2, 15-1

BEST WINS: Marquette, South Carolina, @ Texas A&M, @ South Carolina, Arizona State

WORST LOSSES: @ Oregon, Missouri

COMMON OPPONENTS: Washington, Arizona State

LAST 5 GAMES:

  • W (3/9) SEC Tournament, Missouri, 71-56
  • W (3/10) SEC Tournament, Arkansas, 101-70
  • W (3/22) NCAA Tournament, #16 seed Southern U, 103-46
  • W (3/24) NCAA Tournament, #9 seed Clemson, 85-61
  • W (3/29) NCAA Tournament, #5 seed Arizona State, 76-53
NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Portland Regional-Mississippi State vs Arizona State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

SEASON RECAP

The Bulldogs made short work of ACC foe Virginia on the road, 72-44, and their high-powered offense scored more than 100 in their next four games while holding their opponents to less than 54 points. The Little Rock Trojans fared slightly better, but still fell 98 to 63 at home.

The level of competition was raised in the SEC/BIG 12 Challenge on the road against Texas. Both teams entered the contest with perfect 7-0 records, but strong play from Jazzmun Holmes and Teaira McCowan gave Mississippi State the top ten 67-49 victory.

Three bird-themed tournament teams played consecutive games against the Bulldogs: Marquette, Southern Miss, and Oregon. The Golden Eagles played them close in Starkville in a five-point loss, the Lady Eagles were embarrassed on their homecourt, but the Ducks handed them their first loss of the season.

Oregon was able to limit Bulldogs star player Teaira McCowan to just five points, significantly less than the 35 she scored against the Ducks the season before. Mississippi State took out their revenge against Washington in Seattle, 103 to 56, then improved upon their scoring differential by beating Louisiana, 104-36.

The Bulldogs repeated their non-conference success by once again going on a ten-game run, this time through the SEC starting with a 93-69 road win over Arkansas. Only fellow Bulldog Georgia was able to keep within ten points during this dominant stretch as Mississippi State outscored their first ten conference opponents 827 to 582. Their most impressive win of this run came against South Carolina, 89-74.

The 18-7, 7-4 Missouri Tigers shocked the world of women’s college basketball by upsetting the Bulldogs in Mississippi by a score of 75 to 67. Mississippi State’s second and final conference loss fueled the Bulldogs in their final five games of the regular season, starting with a bounce-back victory over then-No. 22 Texas A&M and concluding with a 68-64 finale against South Carolina.

The SEC Tournament didn’t seem to challenge the Bulldogs that much. #8 seed Tennessee fell to #1 seed Mississippi State in the Quarterfinals by a score of 83 to 68. Then the team got revenge against #5 seed Missouri, the only SEC team to beat them this season, by beating them 71 to 56 in the Semifinals. The scrappy #10 seed Arkansas Razorbacks were no match for the red-hot Bulldogs and were blown out by a score of 101 to 70 in the Championship game.

Mississipi State has made the playoffs for five consecutive season, has been in the last three Elite Eights, and finished as an NCAA Tournament runner up in the last two Championship games. A 57-point victory over Southern U. set the tone for Mississippi State and an 85-61 win over Clemson put them back in the Sweet Sixteen. The Sun Devils struggled to score in the first and last quarter of the game which doomed them to a 76-53 loss.

Oregon may have beaten this team earlier in the season, but this team has reached another level since that game. This is the best team that the Ducks have faced this season, let’s hope they’re ready.


STAT COMPARISON

  • BULLDOGS score 86.3 PPG
  • DUCKS allow 62.1
  • BULLDOGS shoot .493% from the floor
  • DUCKS allow .392%
  • BULLDOGS shoot .372% from three
  • DUCKS allow .303%
  • BULLDOGS average 43.0 rebounds
  • DUCKS allow 30.5
  • BULLDOGS allow 57.4 PPG
  • DUCKS score 85.3
  • BULLDOGS allow .377% from the floor
  • DUCKS shoot .504%
  • BULLDOGS allow .329% from three
  • DUCKS shoot .414%
  • BULLDOGS allow 29.8 rebounds
  • DUCKS average 38.1
  • BULLDOGS average 16.3 assists/ 12.6 turnovers

MISSISSIPPI STATE STARTERS

#15 Teaira McCowan

NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Notre Dame vs Mississippi State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

6’7, Center, Senior

(35 GP - 29.7 MPG - .664 FG% - .000 3PT% - .754 FT% - 18.4 PPG - 13.5 REB)

Mississippi State’s not-so-secret weapon is Senior Teaira McCowan. At 6-foot-7, her footwork and energy are a bit surprising. She has scored 30 double-doubles this season and against the Sun Devils became the all-time record holder for NCAA Tournament career rebounds (225). She is a mismatch for nearly every team and is a gravitational player that enhances the play of her teammates.


#5 Anriel Howard

NCAA Womens Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament - Mississippi State vs Tennessee Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

5’11, Forward, Graduate

(35 GP - 28.9 MPG - .513 FG% - .329 3PT% - .732 FT% - 16.3 PPG - 8.4 REB)

The grad-transfer from Texas A&M made a name for herself by becoming the first Aggie with over 1,000 rebounds. She also claimed Texas A&M’s career double-double record with 32. January 31st was the last time she didn’t score in double digits and against Oregon she scored a season high 30 points.


#24 Jordan Danberry

NCAA Womens Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament - Mississippi State vs Tennessee Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

5’8, Guard, Senior

(35 GP - 28.1 MPG - .484 FG% - .000 3PT% - .620 FT% - 13.1 PPG - 3.4 REB)

Danberry has done a fantastic job guiding this team to 33 victories. She can make a difference with her steals, assists, and veteran play.


#2 Andra Espinoza-Hunter

NCAA Womens Basketball: Michigan State at Connecticut Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

5’11, Guard, Sophomore

(32 GP - 21.3 MPG - .424 FG% - .419 3PT% - .826 FT% - 8.8 PPG - 1.2 REB)

Espinoza-Hunter is only a recent starter after the season ending injury to Chloe Bibby’s left knee against South Carolina, but she’s contributed in nearly every game and has blown open a few games with her ability to hit the three.


#10 Jazzmun Holmes

NCAA Womens Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

5’8, Guard, Senior

(35 GP - 30.2 MPG - .427 FG% - .429 3PT% - .863 FT% - 7.8 PPG - 2.4 REB)

Last season’s Sixth Player of the Year Award winner has earned a starting role on this nationally elite squad through her high level of play. Last time she faced off against Oregon, she played for 39 minutes, scored 12 points and dished out seven assists.


PANIC LEVEL

18 out of 18 Triple-Doubles

This is it... the Big One! No, not the big one, but a very, very huge game for the Duck program. Three straight trips to the Elite Eight show how far this team has come under Coach Kelly Graves, but it’s also left the fans and players craving more. With rumors that this may be Ionescu’s final season in college, a loss to Mississippi State would feel disappointing, even though just making it to this level should be reward enough.

Mississippi State is struggling with the weight of their own expectations, though they are a bit loftier than the Ducks. The Bulldogs have been back to back National Championship runner ups and are eager to win it all for the first time in program history. I’m choosing the Bulldogs in this one because I’m a pessimist, but anything’s possible when this Duck team is on the floor!

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Portland Regional-Oregon vs South Dakota State Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

SCORE PREDICTION

BULLDOGS 68 - DUCKS 61