Starkville, MS (Sports Network) - Craig Sword came up in the clutch as he
scored a team-high 18 points to lift the Mississippi State Bulldogs fend off
the South Carolina Gamecocks to collect a 56-54 victory in the Southeastern
Conference opener for both sides at Humphrey Coliseum.
Roquez Johnson chipped in 14 points off the bench for the Bulldogs (6-7, 1-0
SEC) as the picked up their second consecutive win. Colin Borchert also made
an impact with eight points, six rebounds, and four blocks.
South Carolina (10-4, 0-1) came up short despite Brian Richardson finishing
with 20 points and eight rebounds. Bruce Ellington added 11 points on 4-of-7
shooting, but he also committed nine of the Gamecocks' 24 turnovers.
Richardson and Ellington drained back-to-back triples to give South Carolina a
10-4 lead just over four minutes after tip-off, but the hosts used an 8-2 run
to tie it back up at 12. In the late stages of the opening period, Johnson
made a pair of free throws to put MSU up, 26-23 just before Ellington made his
second 3-pointer of the contest to tie it back up. Neither side managed to
produce any points before the break, which sent the game into halftime knotted
up at 26. Turnovers hurt the Gamecocks early on as MSU tallied 15 points off
their miscues in the opening 20 minutes.
After connecting on only 30.8 percent of its shots from the floor in the first
half, Mississippi State heated up to sink 47.8 percent of its field goal tries
in the second half. Although South Carolina shot just 36.7 percent from the
field after the intermission, it registered seven more attempts which kept the
contest close. The Gamecocks were in front, 50-44, with 5:14 left before the
final buzzer, but 96 seconds later Johnson put in a layup to tie it back up.
With just 46 seconds remaining, Sword sank two free throws to put MSU up,
54-52. Sword then stole the ball from Ellington and made it a two-possession
contest as he dunked it through the cylinder. Michael Carerra made a layup for
the Gamecocks to return the deficit to just two points. Fred Thomas was sent
to the line via intentional fouls, but he missed both attempts and Carerra
reeled in the miss. However, South Carolina fell as Ellington and Richardson
both failed to connect on their 3-point tries in the closing seconds.
Despite going 0-of-10 from 3-point range, the Bulldogs managed to survive
their thrilling SEC opener by outscoring USC, 34-20, in points in the paint.
The Sports Network