For the third straight season, South Carolina and Mississippi State met to battle it out for the SEC Tournament championship. And for the fourth straight season — a conference record — the Gamecocks walked away with the hardware with a 62-51 win on Sunday in Nashville, Tenn.
Entering the highly anticipated matchup, the No. 2 Bulldogs had wrapped up a perfect regular-season campaign in the SEC, which included a victory over the Gamecocks in February. Still undefeated at 32-0, Mississippi State looked like it finally had its chance to avenge its previous tournament losses to the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks, though, had a different idea. A’ja Wilson and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan teamed up to control the post against the Bulldogs, as South Carolina held a 38-23 rebounding advantage and scored 36 points in the paint. Wilson, who came off the bench for the third game in a row, led the Gamecocks with 16 points, followed by Ty Harris (14 points) and Herbert Harrigan (13). South Carolina shot 50.1% from the floor and also made 10 of its 11 free throws.
The Gamecocks clamped down on the Bulldogs defensively, holding Mississippi State to just five points in the second quarter and limiting star forward Teaira McCowan to six points (foul trouble helped in that regard, too). The Bulldogs, second in the SEC in 3-point percentage, were a woeful 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Mississippi State rebounded from its disastrous second quarter and shot much better in the third, which called to mind the Bulldogs’ impressive come-from-behind victory against the Gamecocks earlier this season. But the closest Mississippi State could come was within five points, and South Carolina kept the game safely out of reach.
A’ja Wilson was named the tournament’s MVP, while Harris and Herbert Harrigan made the all-tournament team.
What’s next: The win is unlikely to change South Carolina’s positioning for the NCAA Tournament, as the Gamecocks are still projected as a 2-seed in ESPN’s updated bracket.