Mississippi State back in the Elite Eight for a third straight season

PORTLAND, Ore. — Teaira McCowan had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and top-seeded Mississippi State earned a spot in the Elite Eight for the third straight season with a 76-53 victory Friday night over No. 5 Arizona State.

The Bulldogs (33-2) will face the winner of Friday’s late game between second-seeded Oregon and No. 6 South Dakota State on Sunday.

Jazzmun Holmes had 13 points and seven assists, and Andra Espinoza-Hunter added 12 points for Mississippi State, which led by as many as 24 points.

Kianna Ibis had 16 points for the Sun Devils (22-11), who were vying for their first trip to the round of eight since 2009.

It was the 11th straight victory for the Bulldogs, who defeated Arkansas for the SEC Tournament title and won the regular-season conference title with a 15-1 record.

McCowan, a 6-foot-7 senior center who was SEC Player of the Year, had her 30th double-double of the season, a new school record. She also set the NCAA career rebounding record when she passed Sylvia Fowles’ mark of 221. McCowan now has 225 in her career, doing it in three less games then the former LSU great.

She was averaging 18.3 points and 13.5 rebounds going into Friday’s game. Following the Bulldogs’ lone loss this season to Missouri back on Feb. 14, she has averaged 21.3 points a game.

Her tip-in put the Bulldogs up 63-47 with just under six minutes to go in the game.

To get to Portland, Mississippi State defeated 16th-seeded Southern 103-46 in the opening round before an 85-61 victory over No. 9 Clemson on Sunday.

Arizona State was making its sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The team has reached the final eight twice, in 2007 and 2009.

Coach Charli Turner Thorne has never been to the Final Four in her 22 years in charge of the Sun Devils.

The Sun Devils downed No. 12 UCF 60-45 before edging fourth-seeded Miami 57-55 in Coral Gables to advance.

The Bulldogs took a 12-6 lead midway through the first quarter on Jordan Danberry’s layup. But she collected two fouls in the period, along with seven points, and headed to the bench.

Mississippi State led 17-10 at the end of the opening period but the Sun Devils kept the margin within single digits and closed within 25-22 on Iris Mbulito’s 3-pointer.

The Bulldogs closed out the half on a 7-2 run for a 32-24 lead at the break. The Sun Devils were hurt by 10 turnovers in the half.

Mississippi State pushed the lead to 38-28 in the third quarter but Mbulito had a pair of layups for ASU. Espinoza-Hunter hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Bulldogs back into a 44-34 lead before Andriel Howard’s fast-break jumper and free throw stretched the lead to 51-38 late in the period.

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