LAS VEGAS — Mississippi State pushed aside overmatched host UNLV.
Teaira McCowan had 31 points and 15 rebounds and No. 5 Mississippi State routed host UNLV 103-63 on Wednesday in the on the first day of the Duel in the Desert.
McCown shot 60 percent from the floor and made all seven of her free throws. Victoria Vivians added 22 points and six rebounds for Mississippi State (12-0), and Roshunda Johnson scored 12 points.
“In the first half I started off a little uneasy, I couldn’t adjust myself to getting triple-teamed because I’m normally double-teamed, so that extra person kind of threw me off when I couldn’t find out where it was coming from,” said McCown, who scored 18 points in the second half. “Once halftime came and I got my breath, and relaxed and everything just started coming and my teammates started finding me and I started making buckets.”
The Bulldogs — who took advantage of UNLV’s 28 turnovers, getting 34 points off the Lady Rebels’ miscues — led by as many as 43, early in the fourth quarter, when coach Vic Schaefer had a lineup on the floor that averaged a collective 3.9 points per game.
“I think our press wears on you, and I think it wears people down a little bit,” Schaefer said. “We gave up some easy stuff in it, but I think in the big scheme of things it just wears people down.”
Brooke Johnson led UNLV (5-5) with 21 points, Paris Strawther added 12, and Katie Powell had 11.
After falling behind by three early in the first quarter, the Bulldogs used a 15-0 run — eight from Vivians — to take control.
The Lady Rebels went on a four-minute scoring drought, and score just two points over the final 5:27 seconds of the first quarter, a layup by Johnson with 1:26 left in the period.
Mississippi State built its lead to 20 points on the strength of a scorching start from long-range, hitting 8 of 11 from beyond the 3-point line in the first quarter alone.
Mississippi State extended its lead to 27 by the end of the half, taking advantage of UNLV’s costly mistakes. The Lady Rebels committed 16 turnovers, while the Bulldogs scored 25 points off turnovers in the first half.
Vivians, listed as a 6-foot-1 guard, victimized the Lady Rebels wherever she shot the ball, hitting 7 of 11 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range, for 17 first-half points.
“I thought they had two WNBA No. 1 picks on their team, I thought both those girls could’ve been No. 1 picks,” UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said, about McCowan and Vivians. “We turned the ball over too much. We had to put together so much effort on the offensive and defensive end, I thought that was a challenge for our team. But I thought they handled themselves well. That’s without one of our top players. They were just too good.”
The Lady Rebels were without starting point guard Nikki Wheatley, who tore the plantar fascia in her left foot in a 41-point loss at Stanford, and is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Mississippi State: With two games left before SEC play begins, the Bulldogs are on target to open league play undefeated. Mississippi State picked to finish second behind No. 4 South Carolina. The top two teams in the SEC meet just once during the regular season, on Feb. 5, at Mississippi State.
UNLV: The Lady Rebels continue to struggle with their scoring defense, as they came into the game ranked 230th in the nation in allowing 67.9 points per game. It marked the sixth time this season they’ve allowed more than 70 points. In their five losses, the Lady Rebels have been outscored by an average of 24.4 points per loss.
Mississippi State: Faces No. 22 Syracuse in Las Vegas on Thursday.
UNLV: Hosts No. 22 Syracuse on Friday.