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Game preview: South Carolina hits the road to visit Mississippi State

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If the Gamecocks are serious about the NCAA Tournament, this is a big opportunity to show it.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina (14-12, 9-4 SEC) at Mississippi State (19-7, 7-6)

Start time: 6 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

Live stream: watchespn.com

Last game

The Gamecocks took care of the other Mississippi school, pulling their usual rabbit out of a hat and coming back from a double-digit deficit to top the Rebels 79-64. Four Gamecocks enjoyed double-figure scoring performances, led by Chris Silva’s 18 points; A.J. Lawson and Hassani Gravett each put up 15, and Keyshawn Bryant added 10. South Carolina continued its recent hot streak from the 3-point arc, making 9 of its 19 attempts — good for 47 percent. The Gamecocks also got some solid minutes from reserve big men Felipe Haase and Alanzo Frink when Silva had to sit with foul trouble, which was an encouraging sign. After enduring a dreadful start to the game, South Carolina once again showed its resilience, as well as its ability to entertain fans with what has been a very fun trip through the SEC thus far.

What to watch for

Mississippi State is currently in a three-way tie for sixth in the league, though the Bulldogs are riding a three-game winning streak and have started garnering some votes from pollsters again. In the teams’ previous meeting back in January, South Carolina edged a then-No. 14 MSU 87-82 in overtime, a big upset that was capped with an A.J. Lawson dunk. Prolific guard Quinndary Weatherspoon continues to pace the Bulldogs with 18.6 points per game, though he “only” had 15 against the Gamecocks in Columbia. These squads are fairly even statistically, but State edges USC in points per game (78.1 to 74.6) and field goal percentage (47.4 to 43.1). MSU is also solid from the free-throw line, with a 72.3 percentage good for fifth in the SEC. If the Gamecocks want any chance of entering NCAA Tournament discussion, this game is likely their last shot at an attention-grabbing victory in the regular season.