Miss. State's McCowan tops in tourney rebounds

With a putback of teammate Andra Espinoza-Hunter's miss in the fourth quarter of Friday's Portland Regional semifinal against Arizona State, Mississippi State center Teaira McCowan passed Sylvia Fowles to become the leading rebounder in NCAA tournament history, with 222.

"My hard work is paying off," the senior said after the Bulldogs' 76-53 victory. "I fight for those rebounds as well as anyone else. I'm just congratulating myself on just going in and securing every board."

McCowan entered the game nine shy of Fowles' record, set from 2005 through 2008 when the current Minnesota Lynx center played at LSU. Fowles' 221 rebounds came in 20 games as the Tigers reached the Final Four in all four of her seasons, with Fowles averaging 11.1 per game.

"I know who Sylvia Fowles was," Bulldogs coach Vic Schaefer said. "[McCowan] probably had never seen her play. I knew who that kid was, the great player she was in this league, and the records she holds in this league. Teaira McCowan just went into some real rare air, not to mention across the country. I mean, Sylvia was in our conference, but she set the record for all time in the NCAA tournament. Teaira McCowan just broke that. That's pretty incredible.

"Sylvia made it all the way into the Final Four all four years. So T has done it a little bit ahead of schedule, so to speak. I'm just so proud of her. Again, the growth, the maturity of her, the course of her career at Mississippi State, really special."

Friday was McCowan's 18th NCAA tournament game, and including her 13 Friday, she's averaged 12.5 rebounds per game. The top-seeded Bulldogs (33-2) have reached the championship game and lost each of the past two seasons, and their victory over the No. 5 Sun Devils moved them within one win of a third consecutive trip to the Final Four.

After scoring just two points in the first half, McCowan finished with 22 for her 10th career double-double in the NCAA tournament, tied for third-most in the past 20 seasons with Chiney Ogwumike and Fowles, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.