The taller and stronger Mississippi State Bulldogs had their way away inside against USC in the second half and ran away to a 73-51 victory in their SEC Tournament game Thursday night in Tampa. The Bulldogs only led 36-34 at the half but overwhelmed the Gamecocks with one layup after another in the second half. And that to a stifling defensive effort and the Bulldogs won going away to earn a spot opposite Tennessee in the quarterfinals Friday night.
The Bulldogs first seven baskets of the second half came on layups created in a variety of ways…in transition off turnovers, on stick-backs off an offensive rebound, and on a sharp assist. They built a ten-point lead only to see the Gamecocks cut it to three. And when Keyshawn Bryant made a steal and broke away for a slam dunk, it appeared the Gamecocks would close to within one. But Bryant missed the dunk and the Bulldogs went down and scored on an offensive rebound to make it 49-44.
It’s hard to fathom, but the Gamecocks made only one more basket the remainder of the game, a layup by Devin Carter with 10:29 to play in a 51-46 game. USC was still very much alive at that point, but they were dead men walking. The Gamecocks missed their final 13 shots, and that included three layups. They also turned the ball over six times during that stretch of the game.
It was one of the worst 20 minutes of basketball imaginable in the second half. If you are a Gamecock fan, you can only read the numbers and weep: 4-31 (12.9%) from the floor; 1-10 on three-pointers; 8-16 from the line; 13 personal fouls; 8 turnovers.
USC finished the night shooting 28% overall. The Gamecocks were outscored 20-11 at the line, 19-9 in points off turnovers, 17-3 in second chance points and 42-16 in points in the paint.
The Gamecocks are now 21-30 all time in the SEC Tournament and haven’t won a game in the event since 2018. They are 18-13 and will wait on the NIT selections Sunday night to see if they will have more games this season.