PORTLAND — Mt. McCowan was dormant in December.
Second-seeded Oregon wants to make sure No. 1 Mississippi State’s 6-foot-7 center, Teaira McCowan, doesn’t erupt during the Portland Regional final on Sunday at Moda Center (11 a.m., ESPN).
The Ducks (32-4) held the SEC player of the year to five points and 11 rebounds during their 82-74 victory over the Bulldogs (33-2) on Dec. 18 at Matthew Knight Arena.
A trip to the Final Four is on the line in the rematch.
“Obviously you start with Teaira inside. She is an incredible player, an immovable force, so to speak,” Oregon coach Kelly Graves said. “You look at Mt. Hood out there in the distance, you could put her right next to it because they're the two tallest things in this area right now.
“I’m telling you, she's incredible.”
When asked about being compared to a 11,250-foot stratovolcano, McCowan laughed, paused and said: “That’s crazy … no comment.”
Mississippi State’s star wants to let her performance do the talking in Portland after being pulled early from the defeat in Eugene in which she was outplayed by Ruthy Hebard.
“I just know I have to be better for my teammates, I have to be focused, dialed in,” McCowan said. “I can't just do what I did last game. I went back and looked at it. I wasn't doing what I normally do. I wasn't the normal T.
“I know this time I'll be better, my team will be better. We'll be fine.”
Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said McCowan, who has led the program to the NCAA championship game the last two seasons, has become a more patient player down the stretch as team’s throw two and three defenders at her.
“That night was certainly a frustrating night for all of us, for her,” Schaefer said. “She's a lot like her coach — she's an emotional kid, plays with a lot of passion. I have a real appreciation for somebody like that.”
The Bulldogs were at the mercy of Sabrina Ionescu and Maite Cazorla for most of the night when Oregon’s steady backcourt was running the pick-and-roll play to perfection.
Hebard drew McCowan out of the paint on offense and pushed her out of her comfort zone on defense.
“She's a great player,” Hebard said. “I'm going to have to try again to get low, be strong, physical, depend on my teammates a lot. Hopefully that works out. I know we're going to give it our all.”
Hebard scored 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in the first meeting with Mississippi State this season.
During the Ducks’ 90-79 loss in Starkville, Miss., two seasons ago, the 6-4 Hebard had 25 points on 11-for-12 shooting with seven rebounds. McCowan countered with 35 points on 15-for-18 shooting with 19 rebounds.
“It's going to be huge,” Ionescu said of the game within the game between Hebard and McCowan. “That's their key player, that's their best player, that's one of the best players in the country. She didn't have her best game against us at our place. Credit to Ruthy and to our team.
“We know that (Sunday) she's not going to let that happen again, especially with a Final Four on the line. We're going to have to be able to learn and adjust and play better than we did down at our place.”