Tennessee preview

Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan (15) leads the SEC in rebounds among freshmen at seven per game. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan (15) leads the SEC in rebounds among freshmen at seven per game. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

No. 13 Mississippi State looks to add another historical moment Thursday when it hosts No. 19 Tennessee at Humphrey Coliseum.

The Bulldogs seek to claim the program’s first win against the Lady Vols in the 8 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.

Tickets for the contest cost $5 for adults, while admission is free for youth ages 17 and under and MSU students with a valid ID. Fans can buy tickets atwww.hailstate.com/tickets or at the Humphrey Coliseum ticket office on game day.

In addition to being broadcast nationally on the SEC Network, the game will also be carried on WKBB-FM 100.9 in the Golden Triangle, WXWX-FM 96.3 in Tupelo, and WKCU-FM 92.9 and WKCU-AM 1350 in Corinth.

“True Maroon” will be the theme for this matchup, and fans are encouraged to show their Bulldog spirit by wearing Maroon.

The first 5,000 in attendance receive free Maroon and White poms, and MSU students get free pizza while supplies last.

Bully’s Kidz Kourt opens in Mize Pavilion an hour before tip. Mize will also house “Pump It Up,” an inflatable zone just for college students presented by the Student Association and MSU Athletics, on Thursday.

State looks to rebound from back-to-back defeats, including a 57-51 setback to No. 2 South Carolina on Sunday, that dropped the team to 17-4 overall and 4-3 in SEC play.

“I love a challenge. I am fired up and excited,” Bulldog coach Vic Schaefer said. “I want to make sure that I’m on my toes. I woke up today and thought, ‘I get to coach women’s basketball today. That’s a pretty good day.’ Every game is important. This game is important after losing to South Carolina and it doesn’t matter who we are playing. It happens to be Tennessee.”

MSU made history in that contest, claiming the state women’s basketball record and the fourth-largest crowd ever in Humphrey Coliseum, men’s or women’s, with 10,626.

Sunday’s hard-fought 57-51 decision against No. 2 South Carolina halted a 16-game home win streak for MSU, but the team has been tough to defeat at the Hump, going 28-2 overall and 10-2 in SEC play the last two seasons.

MSU looks to turn in another stellar defensive performance after holding the Gamecocks to a season-low 57 points. USC also matched its season high for turnovers with 21, its most in SEC play.

The Bulldog defense has held 14 of its opponents below 60 points, including 7 of the last 9, to rate second in the SEC and 13th in the country allowing 52.8 ppg this season.

Mississippi State also rates third in the SEC and fifth in NCAA Division I forcing 23.4 turnovers per game. The Bulldogs have converted those miscues into points, averaging 25.6 points off turnovers per game.

Sophomore Victoria Vivians paced the Bulldog offense again on Sunday, scoring 19 points. The Carthage, Mississippi, native, who moved into 25th place in Mississippi State history with 876 career points, paces the SEC with 17.7 ppg and fourth in conference play with a 16.6 clip.

Vivians, who has been named to the USBWA Meyers Drysdale and Wooden player of the year midseason watch lists, has averaged 18.3 ppg against ranked opponents this season and 17.8 for her young career.

Fellow sophomore Morgan William looks for another solid outing after recording 10 points against the Gamecocks on Sunday. It was her second time to reach double figures in the last three games after tallying 16 in State’s Jan. 18 win against Ole Miss.

William rates second on the team with 9.2 ppg, but she has stepped up her scoring in conference play, averaging 9.9 ppg. The Birmingham, Alabama, has scored 30 of her 69 points in league action at the free-throw line, where she converts an SEC third-best 85.7 percent.

She leads the SEC and is 16th nationally at the charity stripe for the season, making 81 of 92 chances for 88 percent. She also rates third in the conference in assists, dishing 5.2 per game.

Freshman Teaira McCowan paces the Bulldogs on the boards with 7.0 rebounds per game, the most by a league freshman. After limiting South Carolina’s post players on Sunday, McCowan and junior Chinwe Okorie face another tough test against two of the SEC’s Top 6 rebounders in Bashaara Graves and Mercedes Russell.

“Another great opponent in Tennessee. They are a veteran team and are well-coached,” Schaefer said. “They are long, athletic and quick. They have seven McDonald’s All-Americans. It doesn’t get any easier in this league. It’s just on to the next one.”

Like MSU, the Lady Vols enter Thursday’s game looking to bounce back from a loss. Tennessee fell to 12-7 overall, 3-3 in conference play with a narrow 64-63 road setback to No. 12 Kentucky on Monday.

Diamond DeShields, who had 13 points on Monday, paces the Lady Vols in the scoring column with 15.0 ppg. Russell follows with 10.7 ppg, while Graves adds 10.3 ppg while leading the team with 8.7 rpg.

(From MSU Media Relations)

I have covered Mississippi State in some capacity since 2004 and joined the Daily Journal staff in 2013. I enjoy short walks on the beach, performing concerts in my car and watching professional wrestling.

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