The Mississippi State women stepped into Reed Green Coliseum Friday night with a No. 5 national and an impressive following of Bulldog fans.
MSU (10-0) thumped Southern Miss 86-42 before a crowd of 4,448 — the largest to witness a women’s basketball game at Reed Green Coliseum since USM hosted Michigan on March 29, 2015, in front of 5,480 during the WNIT. Friday night’s crowd was the third largest ever to witness a women’s game in the coliseum.
MSU fans, many who traveled to Hattiesburg on buses, gathered to tailgate outside the arena and formed a long line at the entrance well before the doors opened.
Thanks to back-to-back trips to the national title game, the MSU program has reached a level that few women’s teams reach in terms of success and fan support.
“Always fun to come to come down and play down here with our great fans,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought that was a great atmosphere for both teams. I want to commend the Southern Miss folks for getting that crowd in there today. It was just a lot of fun for our kids, just really special. All our Mississippi State Bulldog fans, I really want to say thank you to them and let them know how much we appreciate them making it a real special atmosphere for both teams.”
Harrison Central product Jazzmun Holmes turned in a nice outing just 55 miles from her home in Lyman with 13 points and six rebounds, no turnovers and four steals in 22 minutes.
About 16 family members were on hand Friday night to watch her compete.
“Just happy for her to be able to come,” Schaefer said. “She had so many family members from the Coast here to see her play. It’s just really special.”
Six-foot-7 senior center Teaira McCowan dominated inside for MSU with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 16 rebounds.
Senior forward Anriel Howard led the Bulldogs with 16 points and added seven rebounds.
Southern Miss made the game competitive in the early going and the Bulldogs led 21-16 after one quarter, but MSU’s size advantage and smothering defense proved too much for the Lady Eagles to hovercome.
MSU held USM to just 15 points in the second half.
“That first half was a tough first half,” Schaefer said. “I thought we got out-toughed in some areas and I think you have to give (USM) credit. That being said, I think we answered the bell in the second half. You hold somebody to 15 points in the half you’re doing a lot of things right.”
USM’s starting point guard Shonte Hailes played 14 minutes before leaving with a high-ankle sprain and her absence was obvious in the second half.
Daishai Almond led USM (6-4) with 10 points and Megan Brown contributed 10 points.
MSU will next travel to Oregon for a 9 p.m. tip on Tuesday while the Lady Eagles will host Blue Mountain College at 6 p.m. that same night.
The victory gave the Lady Bulldogs their 46th consecutive regular season victory. An 82-64 loss to Tennessee in the 2016-17 regular season finale still stands as the last time MSU has suffered a regular season defeat.