STARKVILLE, Miss. – Mississippi State continued its strong play on the home floor Thursday night in women’s basketball action.
The Bulldogs took a second Top 10 foe to the wire at home, but No. 6 South Carolina made enough key plays down the stretch to pull out a 71-64 win over Mississippi State at Humphrey Coliseum.
South Carolina maintained its Southeastern Conference lead while moving to 21-2 overall and 9-1 in league play. MSU saw its two-game home court win streak snapped, falling to 16-8 and 3-7.
“I’m proud of these kids,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “I am proud of the effort and passion we played with. We ran some good offensive sets and got some really good shots. Our point guard play was exceptional tonight.”
From the point guard spot, Katia May and Jerica James were a combined 5-of-13 from the field with six assists and one turnover. James tied a career high with three 3-point baskets and led the team with 11 points.
Playing before a spirited home crowd that increased MSU’s school-record season tally to 32,837, the Bulldogs quickly built a 9-6 lead. South Carolina answered and took the lead for good by scoring the game’s next 11 points. A jumper by Alaina Coates placed the Gamecocks on top 17-9 with 13:22 left in the half.
The Gamecocks led by 12 toward the end of the first half, but the Maroon & White rallied with seven straight points, including a basket by James as the half expired, to go to half down five at 34-29.
“Every game we have had that feeling that we are right there,” James said. “Everybody has something they can think about that might have been a game-changer. All we want to do is find a way to win.”
The Bulldogs scored the first three points of the second half to close within two, but South Carolina responded and built the lead to seven points.
South Carolina later followed with a 7-0 run to run the lead to 52-40 with 11:37 left in the contest. Mississippi State kept fighting, though, and put together a 14-3 run to pull within one at 55-54 with 6:28 left. MSU had three different chances to take the lead but could not get a shot to go down.
South Carolina built the lead back out to 60-54 before a James 3-point basket tied the contest. Again, MSU had a chance to tie on the offensive end but could not get a score.
A 3-pointer by Tina Roy proved the back-breaker for USC. The Gamecocks hit 5-of-6 free throws to close out the win.
“I love our effort and energy and our passion,” Schaefer said. “South Carolina is awfully good. There are just some times where we are not smart. Just like Tennessee, this was a chance to beat No. 6. To beat a team like that, you can’t take plays off. You can’t have the handful of mistakes we had.”
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 21 of 63 shots from the field (33.3 percent), 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent) and 17 of 22 shots from the foul line (77.3 percent). The Gamecocks hit 23 of 52 shots from the field (44.2 percent), 5 of 12 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent) and 20 of 23 shots from the foul line (87.0 percent).
South Carolina held a 40-31 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and five turnovers, while the Gamecocks had 15 assists and 14 turnovers.
South Carolina got a double-double from Aleighsa Welch (18 points, 11 rebounds). Khadijah Sessions added 14 points and Asia Dozier added 10 points for the Gamecocks. Elem Ibiam had seven of the Gamecocks’ school-record tying 14 blocked shots.MSU returns to the road for a 2 p.m. start Sunday at Auburn.