COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Mississippi State women’s basketball team flew on short notice to face the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday for a rescheduled conference matchup and lost 80-68.
The matchup was moved up from Feb. 6 due to COVID-related issues for both teams’ originally scheduled opponents. The Bulldogs fell to 9-4 (0-1 SEC), while the Gamecocks improved to 13-1 (1-1 SEC).
South Carolina dominated the second half of the first quarter, holding the Bulldogs scoreless for four and a half minutes during a 13-0 run. The Gamecocks ended the first frame up 23-14, using their size advantage to claim rebounds while the Bulldogs missed several open looks. MSU fought back from an 11-point deficit to even the game at 27-27 halfway through the second quarter, but South Carolina was able to push its advantage back to 45-35 at halftime.
The Gamecocks extended their lead to as many as 20 points during the third quarter, but the Bulldogs managed to chip away at the deficit late in the fourth quarter. The final score was 80-68, but the game was never in doubt in the second half.
The MSU starters shouldered the workload against South Carolina, each playing at least 30 minutes. Redshirt senior guard Anastasia Hayes returned from a four-game injury absence and netted 15 points. Three other Bulldogs scored in double digits as sophomore guard JerKaila Jordan put in 16 points to lead the team, redshirt senior guard Myah Taylor scored 15 and junior forward Rickea Jackson scored 14.
The available centers for the Bulldogs had been held out of practice the previous 10 days due to COVID protocols. Starting freshman center Denae Carter was held to just two points in the paint against the taller Gamecock defenders, despite grabbing eight rebounds to lead MSU in that category.
South Carolina dominated on the defensive glass, earning a 34-19 advantage in defensive rebounds as the Bulldogs only shot 37% from the field and 11.8% from 3-point range. The Gamecocks shot 50% from the field and 35.7% from 3-point range. The Bulldogs remain last in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point shooting at 26.4%.
South Carolina also had four players in double figures and was led by junior guard Zia Cooke with 18 points. National player of the year candidate Aliyah Boston finished with a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Although South Carolina and MSU came into this game ranked first and second in the nation in blocks per game (averaging 8.4 and 7.5), each team only had four in this matchup.
Three of MSU’s four losses are to teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25. No. 1 South Carolina, No. 8 Michigan and No. 23 Oklahoma.
Next up: MSU goes on the road to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.
The Tide hold a 10-3 (1-1 SEC) record and defeated Auburn 56-53 on Sunday. Senior guard Brittany Davis leads Alabama with 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, while former Bulldog junior guard JaMya Mingo-Young grabs 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals per contest. Alabama leads the all-time series against the Bulldogs 39-22 and has won three games in a row over MSU over the past two seasons.