South Carolina traveled to Starkville, Miss., on Monday night with another tough task ahead of it. Days removed from a brutal 83-58 home defeat to No. 1 UConn, the Gamecocks now faced the undefeated and second-ranked Bulldogs, who were alone atop the SEC standings.
Despite jumping out to a hot 20-10 start in the first quarter and then entering the fourth quarter with a 44-39 lead, South Carolina faltered late as Victoria Vivians helped the Bulldogs outscore the Gamecocks 26-9 in the final stanza.
Mississippi State, which began the fourth quarter on a 13-0 run, snapped an 11-game losing streak to South Carolina and avenged last season’s loss in the national championship game.
A’ja Wilson finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Gamecocks, though she was held to seven points in the second half, and Doniyah Cliney added 10. Lindsey Spann returned to action, playing 21 minutes off the bench, but contributed just six points as she begins to work her way back from a knee injury. Starters Alexis Jennings, Ty Harris, and Bianca Jackson, all of whom have had big games for South Carolina recently, combined for only 12 points.
The Gamecocks were outrebounded 40-36, giving up a career-high 20 boards to Bulldogs big Teaira McCowan, and also turned it over 18 times to Mississippi State’s 7. Neither team shot particularly well — the Gamecocks turned in a 38% effort, with State shooting 37% — but South Carolina converted only 10 of 17 free throws, while State made 17 of 23.
No question it’s been a difficult week for Gamecock women’s basketball, but they also played the two best teams in the country. The loss to Mississippi State, though, represents a missed opportunity for South Carolina to challenge for the SEC regular-season title. At 7-3 in the conference, the Gamecocks trail 10-0 State and 8-2 Georgia with six games left. The schedule eases up from here on out, so we’ll see if this team can make a move.
Up next: South Carolina continues its road trip with a visit to Alabama at 7 p.m. on Thursday.