STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Mississippi State women's basketball team lost to Tennessee nearly three dozen times before finally earning its first win in the series.
Three years later, the Bulldogs are making victories over the Lady Volunteers a habit.
No. 6 Mississippi State used a 30-point fourth quarter to pull away for a 91-63 win Sunday, the team's 12th straight overall in a streak that started in December. Teaira McCowan had 24 points and 15 rebounds, and Jordan Danberry added 20 points for the Bulldogs, who posted their biggest margin of victory in the series in front of 10,021 at Humphrey Coliseum.
"I'm very proud of my team," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. "They were special."
The Bulldogs (22-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference) have won 26 consecutive games in regular-season conference play. They've also won 32 straight at home, with the most recent loss there coming to Tennessee in 2017 — their only loss to the Lady Vols in their past six meetings.
Tennessee (15-8, 4-6) had won its past three games — against LSU, Florida and Vanderbilt — and Sunday's final score didn't indicate how tough this win was for the Bulldogs, whose lead dwindled to 47-44 midway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs rallied to close the quarter with a 61-49 advantage, and a 13-0 spurt in the first three minutes of the fourth sealed the victory.
Mississippi State outscored Tennessee 30-14 in the final period.
"We talked going into the fourth quarter, we wanted to push that first five minutes," Schaefer said. "Man, did they push."
McCowan's double-double was her 19th this season and the 6-foot-7 senior center's 58th with the Bulldogs.
Tennessee's Rennia Davis scored 29 points, including 18 in the first half, on 13-of-22 shooting. She also grabbed six rebounds and two steals and was the main reason the game was close early. Mississippi State led 25-17 after one quarter and 40-34 at halftime.
"Rennia is a great player," Danberry said. "I tried my best, but she had the hot hand. I was in attack mode, and she was in attack mode."
Zaay Green added 13 for the Lady Vols, who were without Evina Westbrook — their leading scorer this season — because of a violation of team rules. In a released statement, Westbrook said she missed a class.
Tennessee struggled with Mississippi State's combination of size and speed. Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick believes the Bulldogs — national runners-up the past two seasons — are as dangerous a team as there is in women's college basketball.
"When you have a strong inside game and guards that are super quick, it's a big challenge," Warlick said. "You can't make a lot of mistakes. They grind it out, they're competitors, and I don't see any reason they can't compete for a championship."
Tennessee returns to competition Thursday, hosting Auburn (18-6, 6-5) at 7 p.m.