USC opened a three game homestand Saturday afternoon hoping to build on its surprising win at Florida Wednesday night. But the Gamecocks could not overcome three dreadful stretches of offense in losing to the Bulldogs 75-59. The loss drops the Gamecocks to 5-7 overall and 3-5 in the SEC.
The Gamecocks trailed 36-30 at the half despite two shooting slumps of 0-7 and 0-8 in the half. The Gamecocks shot just 29% for the half and made 1-12 from three point range.
They came out on fire to start the second half. After spotting the Dogs a quick three for a 39-30 lead, the Gamecocks hit three straight three pointers, two by Seventh Woods, to tie the game at 39 with 17:48 to play. And the game stayed tight for the first six minutes of the half. An AJ Lawson dunk brought the Gamecocks to within 50-49 with 13:44 to play. Then, the bottom fell out on the offense, again, and for good.
The Gamecocks missed their next 13 shots after Lawson’s stuff, and Mississippi State took advantage to build a 14 point lead at 63-49 with 8:20 to play. The Gamecocks could not mount a comeback because the poor shooting continued. They made just three of their last eight shots. In all, the Gamecocks were just 3 for 22 from the floor over the final 13:44 of the game.
USC finished with a season low 31% shooting day from the floor, including 5-25 from three. Compounding the bad shooting, the Gamecocks were not physical enough defending screens according to coach Frank Martin. In fact, Martin cited a lack of a physical presence in multiple ways…defense, rebounding and scoring on the break.
The Gamecocks did not guard the Bulldogs’ leading scorer DJ Stewart well at all, and he went off for 29 points, his high for the season in SEC games. They were outrebounded 46-30, and though they forced 21 turnovers, the Gamecocks scored just six fastbreak points and 17 points off those turnovers.
Mississippi State shot 46% from the floor and knocked down ten three-point shots.
AJ Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant led the Gamecocks with 13 points each. Woods had his third straight double-figure scoring game with 10 points.