STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP)Jessika Carter knows she has big shoes to fill for Mississippi State with the graduation of All-American Teaira McCowan.
Carter’s transition for the bigger role was aided by the work she put in behind McCowan a year ago. The sophomore center had a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds in the No. 10 Bulldogs 82-46 win over UT Martin on Monday night.
”I’m much more comfortable than last year,” Carter said. ”I’ve worked hard watching Teaira and Anriel (Howard) play and I’ve gotten more comfortable as the game goes.”
It was a night of many new or newer faces that were taking over expanded roles for a team that is reloading from back-to-back Southeastern Conference championships. The lone senior, Jordan Danberry, played just 12 minutes and scored just one point as head coach Vic Schaefer let his young group find their way on their own.
”She’s going to log some long minutes in some long games,” Schaefer said of Danberry. ”(Monday) gave us an opportunity to play some of these young kids. Jessika was really good. She’s focused.”
One of the guards that shined with extended minutes from freshman point guard Aliyah Matharu , who had her second double-digit scoring contest in as many games. She hit three 3-pointers and had no turnovers.
The zero turnovers were most impressive for Schaefer who puts a premium on his point guards protecting the ball. Matharu has already picked up on that and was happy with the performance after having seven turnovers in the first game against Southern Miss.
”I struggle with sometimes making the best passes. I know that’s a big part of setting my teammates up,” Matharu said. ”I wanted to set them up in a spot where they could score where they’re comfortable. That’s what I tried to do (Monday).”
The Skyhawks (0-2) had issues against MSU’s defense for most of the ball game as they failed to score in the first 6:30 of the game and again in the fourth quarter for the first five minutes. They finished with 20 turnovers and State had 29 points off them.
MSU led 41-20 at halftime and extended that lead in the third and fourth quarters.
Zaire Hicks had 12 points and Damiah Griffin added 10 for UT Martin.
Mississippi State: Monday night felt like an experiment of sorts for Schaefer with his young players. The lone senior, Jordan Danberry, played just 12 minutes and scored just one point while the four true freshmen averaged 15 minutes.
UT Martin: The Skyhawks had a pair of Mississippians on the team that were able to return back home. Former Choctaw Central High School twin guards Kyarrah and Kyannah Grant are sophomores. Kyannah scored one point and played two minutes.
Mississippi State hosts Troy on Friday.
UT Martin travels to No. 23 Gonzaga on Thursday.