Throughout a back-and-forth battle, Mississippi State put up a valiant fight, but it would not be enough, as the Gamecocks handed the Bulldogs their third loss of the season and their first in Southeastern Conference play.
Jessika Carter found herself in foul trouble early, as she was held to just two points. Furthermore, Carter could not contain Gamecock forward Aliyah Boston who posted a double-double of her own that included 21 points and 12 boards. That said, Carter did have five blocks.
Four Gamecock starters were in double figures with Tyasha Harris leading the way. Harris was responsible for 23 points and added seven assists. Virtually unconscious from mid-range, the Bulldogs struggled defensively.
Rickea Jackson and Jordan Danberry dropped 16 apiece. Both took advantage of open looks and got to the rim at will following coach Dawn Staley’s decision to bench Boston due to foul trouble. After a few missed opportunities and questionable decisions, Danberry would foul out late.
Down two with a chance to tie or win in the closing seconds, freshman guard Zia Cooke sealed the deal with an impressive defensive play on the inbound pass. Cooke’s steal evoked shades of the past, as the Bulldogs have yet to get over the hump and achieve the ultimate goal.
Though the game resulted in a loss, the Bulldogs have plenty of reasons to be optimistic going forward, most notably due to their bench play. Aliyah Matharu, Jamya Mingo-Young and Xaria Wiggins combined for 32 points. While Mingo-Young and Wiggins have been factors on both ends of the floor, Matharu is emerging into a star guard.
Having scored 10 straight points, Matharu woke the Bulldogs up and provided a spark. Expect coach Vic Schaefer to increase Matharu’s minutes.
Mississippi State heads to Nashville on Thursday to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores, as the Bulldogs should have something to say after a bitter loss.