COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) — Mississippi State made more strides against one of the elite teams in the Southeastern Conference Sunday afternoon.
However, turnovers continued to plague the Bulldogs and an early deficit proved too much to overcome.
After committing 18 first-half turnovers, MSU settled down, played well but still dropped a 58-43 decision to No. 15 South Carolina in a Southeastern Conference contest played at Colonial Life Arena.
With the victory, USC improved to 22-5 overall and 10-4 in league play, while completing a two-game sweep of the season series. MSU dropped to 12-15 and 4-10. The Gamecocks also recorded a 60-46 victory in Starkville on Jan. 6.
“We settled down in the second half,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “We had 18 turnovers at halftime, and only four in the second half. Jerica (James) brought a calmness to the team at the point guard, and we didn’t turn it over. The matchup was good to us in the second half. I liked our demeanor in the second half.”
South Carolina opened strong by scoring the game’s first 12 points. The Bulldogs went close to four minutes before Carnecia Williams broke the scoring ice with a basket.
While Darriel Gaynor followed with a 3-point basket for the Bulldogs, MSU would fall down 19-5 with 11:31 left in the opening half. Early struggles from the field, coupled with the turnovers, created the early deficit.
South Carolina would push the lead to 20 at 33-13 with 2:41 left in the half. Gaynor hit another 3 as the Bulldogs trimmed the lead to 36-20 at the intermission.
“(South Carolina) really got after us early and we turned it over,” Schaefer said. “Once we settled down, we were fine. We have to have a little more presence at the point, and Jerica really brought that to us in the second half.
For the contest, James played 24 minutes, with five assists and four turnovers.
In the game’s final half, the Bulldogs came out strong. A 9-2 run to open the half brought the Bulldogs within 38-29 with 14:10 left in the contest.
The Gamecocks scored the game’s next six points to move out of danger. MSU got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 16 of 44 shots from the field (36.4 percent), 4 of 10 shots from 3-point range (40 percent) and 7 of 9 shots from the foul line (77.8 percent). The Gamecocks hit 19 of 50 shots from the field (38 percent), 2 of 8 shots from the 3-point line (25 percent) and 18 of 30 shots from the foul line (60 percent).
Martha Alwal led MSU with 13 points and six rebounds.
Aleighsa Welch led South Carolina with a double-double (20 points, 11 rebounds). Khadijah Sessions and Elem Ibiam added 11 points apiece for the Gamecocks.
MSU hosts Georgia at 7 p.m. Thursday night. Gaynor, the Bulldogs’ lone senior, will be honored in pregame ceremonies at the Humphrey Coliseum.