STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – Johnnie Harris has been by Vic Schaefer’s side all six years as they have put Mississippi State women’s basketball on the national map.
Harris’ hard work and dedication in helping the Bulldogs to one of the best seasons in school history was recognized Tuesday as the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) named her Division I Assistant Coach of the Year.
“It is such a tremendous honor to be named the Assistant Coach of the Year,” Harris said. “I appreciate the WBCA and the committee for selecting me, and I am so thankful for the opportunity that Coach Schaefer has given me to do what I do. We have such a great group of players and staff here at Mississippi State, and I share this with all of them.”
The Bulldogs’ associate head coach has assisted Schaefer in building a program that has won 123 games the last four years and made the NCAA Tournament each of those seasons.
During that time, MSU has set the school-record for wins each of the last three seasons. Monday’s win against Oklahoma State not only earned State a third-straight Sweet 16 berth, but it tied last year’s National Finalist squad for the most wins in program history with 34.
This season, Harris has been a key component in helping guide MSU to a 34-1 record, the school’s first SEC championship in a women’s sport with a perfect 16-0 league mark and MSU’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Alongside Schaefer, Harris helped MSU finish the regular season 30-0, the first SEC team to wrap the regular season undefeated in 20 years. State also won 32-straight games, the second-longest win streak in conference annals.
“First of all, I think it is long overdue,” Schaefer said. “There is no question in my mind that Johnnie is the best in the business. I was not taking the Mississippi State job if she was not coming with me. She has been so valuable to our success here at Mississippi State and I couldn’t be happier for her. I think it is an honor that is well-deserved. We are very proud of her.”
One of the key reasons for the Bulldogs’ success has been the play of one of Harris’ pupils in the post, Teaira McCowan. Under Harris’ guidance, McCowan has been one of the most-improved players in the country, earning First Team ESPNW All-America honors after scoring 9.1 more points per game and pulling down 6.2 more rebounds per game than a year ago when she was named SEC Sixth Woman of the Year.
She was also tabbed First Team All-SEC and SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year while earning a place on the league’s All-Defensive Team.
McCowan has scored 17.8 ppg this season and topped the SEC and ranked third nationally with 13.3 rpg. The Brenham, Texas, native has also led the country on the offensive glass (5.9 rpg) and ranked 15th in Division I with a school-record 60.6 percent field goal percentage.
She also tallied 13.9 ppg and hauled down 14.6 rpg against ranked foes this year.
During the career-best season, McCowan has recorded 28 double-figure scoring games, including 12 with 20-plus points, five with 30 and a 41-point effort. She also collected double-digit rebounds in 31 of State’s 35 games, hauling in 20 boards in four of those contests.
With Harris’ coaching, McCowan also pulled down an MSU-best 25 double-doubles, fourth-most in the nation. The Bulldogs’ 6-foot-7 center set State’s single-season rebounding record with 466, the fifth-most in SEC history.
McCowan became the first SEC player since at least 2000 to record 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game, and her two 30-20 games is tied for the second-most by a Power 5 conference player in the last 15 seasons.
She reached 1,000-career points this season, and with 18 rebounds Monday against Oklahoma State, moved into third at State in career rebounds with 937. She joined Martha Alwal, another Harris pupil, as the only Bulldogs to tally 1,000-career points, 900-career rebounds and 170-career blocks.
In addition to rating third at MSU in career rebounds, McCowan has climbed to first in field goal percentage (57.1 percent), 14th in scoring (1,194 points), third in blocked shots (171) and second in double-doubles (35).