It’s been a sweet ride the last four years for seniors Jazzmun Holmes and Teaira McCowan.
Those two Mississippi State players have made the Sweet 16 all four years during their college careers. That happened as top-seeded Mississippi State punched its ticket to Portland and the Sweet 16 for the fourth-straight season with an 85-61 win over No. 9 seed Clemson in the second round on Sunday in Starkville.
A raucous crowd of 9,944 filed into Humphrey Coliseum to watch the final home game for Holmes, McCowan and transfer seniors Jordan Danberry and Anriel Howard. And that quartet did not disappoint, combining for 75 points, 34 rebounds, 14 assists, 11 blocks and 10 steals.
All four seniors received a standing ovation as they individually exited the floor one last time in the final minute.
“In church this morning, my prayer was that these seniors would have the chance to stand out there at half court when the game was over and acknowledge our fans, and they got to do that,” said MSU coach Vic Schaefer. “The good Lord answered my prayer and it was just my wish. I know how special that is.”
State advances ahead to battle No. 5 seed Arizona State on Friday in Portland, Oregon. The Sun Devils (22-10) pulled an upset against fourth-seeded Miami 57-55 on Sunday.
The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (32-2) shot 53.2 percent from the field and outrebounded Clemson, 42-29.
McCowan and Howard both finished with double-doubles. McCowan had 30 points on 14-of-17 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and six blocked shots for her 68th career double-double while Howard added 21 points and 14 boards for her 45th double-double.
“It was pretty special, getting to play my last home game here in the Hump, in front of all those fans," McCowan said. “Nobody left. So them sticking around for that whole game just warms my heart.”
Danberry finished with 18 points and also spearheaded a defense that forced 23 Clemson turnovers – leading to 28 points on the other end of the floor.
The Bulldogs wasted little time establishing their authority, going up 23-10 in the opening quarter.
Mississippi State opened in a suffocating full-court press that forced Clemson into 12 first-half turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 16 points off of those miscues and pushed to a 41-22 lead by the break.
That lead only swelled in the second as MSU closed out the first half on a 9-0 run as the Tigers missed their final six shots.
Clemson (20-13) shot 41.3 for the evening led by 14 apiece from Danielle Edwards and Simone Westbrook. Kobi Thornton scored 12 points and Aliyah Collier chipped in 11 off the bench.