The Gamecocks rolled into their game at The Hump in Starkville, Mississippi, having won 8 of 10 and playing their best basketball of the season. But South Carolina settled back into some poor habits and dug themselves a hole they couldn’t overcome in a 79-76 loss to Mississippi State, Wednesday.
After falling behind the Bulldogs 36-27 by halftime, South Carolina (16-10, 8-5 SEC) employed a faster pace in the second half that led to a number of Gamecock runs. However, each measure of success was met with an equal measure of futility until the Gamecocks hit the Bulldogs with a flurry in the final minute. Consecutive baskets and a steal preceded a 3-pointer from Jair Bolden. Bolden’s shot trimmed the lead to one with seven seconds remaining. After the Bulldogs knocked down a pair of free throws, Jermaine Couisnard purposely missed a foul shot to give his team a chance, but South Carolina couldn’t secure the rebound and hope was lost.
Senior center Maik Kotsar continued his quality play, scoring 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting. Guards Couisnard (16 points) and A.J. Lawson (12 points) joined Kotsar in double figures, but shot a combined 2 of 12 from the 3-point line. The Gamecocks found little success from long distance, hitting on just 4 of 17 shots from behind the arc.
Kotsar scored in double figures for the seventh game in a row and is shooting 57% from the field during the streak. Perhaps more surprisingly, the big Estonian has been filling it up at the free throw line. Kotsar, a career 53% shooter from the foul line, has knocked down 81% of his tries in the last seven games.
South Carolina will get another chance to improve its NCAA Tournament profile when the Gamecocks play host to LSU, Saturday at 6 p.m.