Although we came out of the gate looking like we could take down the Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi State won 75-70 after outshooting us late and holding down their lead at the line. Devan Downey led South Carolina with 19 points, while State's Ravern Johnson led all scorers with 20. Congrats to the Bulldogs on a hard-fought victory; we had a chance to win this one, but unlike other teams we've beaten late, State was up to the challenge of playing us wire to wire.
I was unable to watch this game, so my ability to provide analysis is a little limited. However, a few things jump out at me while I look at the box score. State shot for a lower percentage than we did, but they took five more shots and thus made one more than us. That's because they beat us on the offensive boards and in the turnover game. State also mades more treys, as we shot uncharacteristically poorly from beyond the arc. If I'm not mistaken, we didn't make one until midway through the second half; if we had shot better from downtown earlier in the game, we might have gone into halftime with a gigantic lead and a huge mental and emotional edge. Finally, missed 10 FTs. If we had made a few of those, this game would have been tied in the final minute and we wouldn't have been in a situation where we had to foul. All in all, this looks like a game that we were in position to win if we could have played to our usual level, so it's dissappointing to see us lose it. However, we've had more than our fair share of success in games like this, so let's take this one for what it is. These things happen on the road.
Luckily, we're still in a tie for first in the East, as Kentucky lost yesterday and Tennessee lost today. Florida rejoins the party at the top with their victory over Bama. Needless to say, the race for the Eastern Division crown and the two first-round byes in the conference tourney is going to go down to the final couple of games. Our next stop is a home game with Arkansas. I've heard that this game is sold out, so hopefully we'll put on a good show for the faithful. Arkansas did prove that they still have a little bite by taking LSU down to the wire today, so we need to come out ready to take it to the Hogs just like we did against UGA a couple of weeks ago. A win will put us right back on track and prepare us for the big showdowns with Kentucky and Tennessee that are looming large.