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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) — Mississippi State competed hard Sunday afternoon before coming up on the short end of a 60-46 decision against No. 15 South Carolina in a Southeastern Conference women’s basketball game played at the Humphrey Coliseum.

Mississippi State’s Jerica James scored a career-high 14 points in the Bulldogs’ loss to No. 15 South Carolina on Sunday.

The Bulldogs (8-7 overall, 0-2 conference) bounced back from a disappointing conference-opening loss at Vanderbilt by putting together a solid defensive effort. MSU held South Carolina to 35.9 percent shooting and only allowed 14 total field goals, including no makes from 3-point range.

“I am proud of the kids for competing and playing with a high energy level,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “South Carolina is No. 15 for a reason. They are big and physical. They have that SEC look to them. I thought we played a physical game with them and competed.”

The key for the Gamecocks (13-2, 1-1) was 50 trips to the free-throw line where they converted 32. MSU was called for 29 total fouls and had both Sherise Williams and Carnecia Williams foul out.

South Carolina scored the game’s first six points and never trailed in the contest. The Bulldogs closed within 10-7 on a 3-pointer by Darriel Gaynor with 12:44 left in the half. In the early stages, the framework for a defensive struggle was established.

The Gamecocks followed with an 8-2 run to open an 18-9 advantage. Back-to-back baskets by Martha Alwal and Jerica James brought the hosts within 22-18 with 3:53 left in the half.

South Carolina scored the game’s next six points and built a 28-20 lead at halftime.

Both teams shot 28 percent from the field in the opening half. The Bulldogs’ cause was not aided by nine first-half turnovers. Predominantly against the USC zone defense, MSU only turned the ball over four times in the game’s final half.

“I thought our execution was good on both ends of the floor,” Schaefer said. “We had foul trouble early and had to play through it. In all of my years of coaching, I don’t know if I have seen a team shoot 50 free throws. Their guards are really good. They can break you down, get to the line and do that to you.”

The Bulldogs closed within six at 32-26 on a Kendra Grant jumper with 15:11 left in the contest. The Gamecocks stretched the lead to double digits on a 3-point play by Aleighsa Welch with 12:19 left.

After that, the Bulldogs closed within seven on two different occasions but turned the ball over after drawing that close one final time.

For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 16 of 50 shots from the field (32.0 percent), 4 of 12 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 10 of 14 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent). The Gamecocks hit 14 of 39 shots from the field (35.9 percent), 0 of 2 shots from 3-point range and 32 of 50 shots from the foul line (64.0 percent).

South Carolina held a 40-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had five assists and 13 turnovers, while the Gamecocks had five assists and 12 turnovers.

Grant got back into double figures for the Bulldogs, scoring 15 points. James added a career-high 14 points, and Martha Alwal had a team-high eight rebounds despite playing most of the second half with four fouls.

USC received 16 points from Welch and 11 points from Sancheon White.

MSU stays on the home court Thursday, hosting Florida in a 7 p.m. tip that will be televised by the Sunshine Network.

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