No. 11 Bulldogs Fall At No. 2 South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Mississippi State competed hard against one of the nation’s elite teams but could not find enough offensive firepower for victory. No. 11 MSU held No. 2 South Carolina nine points below its scoring average but still dropped a 69-50 decision in Southeastern Conference women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena.

MSU dropped to 25-5 overall and 10-5 in league play. The Bulldogs enter the final day of regular season play in a two-way tie with Texas A&M for third place. MSU will finish the No. 3 seed and earn a double bye in the conference tournament with a home win over Ole Miss Sunday.

South Carolina improved to 27-1 overall and 15-0 in league play with a school-record tying 32nd straight win at home. The Gamecocks clinched at least a share of the conference regular season championship for a second straight year.

“I was disappointed in how we played tonight,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “You have to tip your hat to South Carolina and what Dawn (Staley) has done with this program. What a great atmosphere. She has a great team. They are physical. That is my kind of team.

“I wish we could have given them a little more of a fight. It was our worst game of the year. We let it get away from us at the end of the first half.”

Victoria Vivians and LaKaris Salter led the Bulldogs with 14 points apiece. Martha Alwal was also in double figures with 12 points and a team-high six rebounds.

South Carolina scored the game’s first five points and quickly built a 15-8 lead. The Bulldogs held the Gamecocks without a field goal the next four minutes but could only trim two points off the lead.

The Bulldogs pulled within 18-14 on a basket by Ketara Chapel and a basket from Alwal, who scored on an assist from Chapel.

South Carolina would then stretch a 21-18 lead with 10 straight points. The Gamecocks ended the half on an 18-8 run and led 39-26 at the intermission.

The Bulldogs were down 10 at 43-33 after a 3-point by Jerica James with 15:31 left. South Carolina followed with a 12-2 run for a 55-35 lead. The Bulldogs were held to one field goal over a nine-minute stretch. Salter came in late and hit 4 of 5 3-point shot attempts to keep the Bulldogs afloat late.

For the contest, MSU hit 19 of 55 shots from the field (34.5 percent), 7 of 23 shots from 3-point range (30.4 percent) and 5 of 9 shots from the foul line (55.6 percent). South Carolina hit 26 of 51 shots from the field (51.0 percent), 1 of 6 shots from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 16 of 24 shots from the foul line (66.7 percent).

South Carolina held a 36-30 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 14 assists and 20 turnovers, while the Gamecocks had 11 assists and 16 turnovers.

“South Carolina out-worked us on some 50-50 balls,” Schaefer said. “I wanted us to come in here and play hard. For whatever reason, I was disappointed in that part of the game tonight.”

MSU returns home to face in-state rival Ole Miss in the Sunday regular season finale. The Bulldogs and Rebels will tip at 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Net South from the Humphrey Coliseum. The MSU senior class of Martha Alwal, Kendra Grant, Jerica James and Savannah Carter will be honored in pregame ceremonies.

The contest will also be the team’s “Black Out.” Fans are encouraged to wear black to the game, and the first 250 fans receive a free limited edition T-shirt.


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