TAMPA, Fla. — Redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith scored 20 points with 12 rebounds, junior guard Iverson Molinar scored 19 and the Mississippi State men’s basketball team used a dominating second half to beat South Carolina 73-51 in a second-round SEC Tournament game Thursday inside Amalie Arena.
The Bulldogs (18-14, 8-10 SEC) also got 10 points, five assists and five rebounds from sophomore guard Shakeel Moore and seven points and 14 rebounds from sophomore forward Andersson Garcia in his first career start.
As a team, MSU shot 25-for-63 (39.7%) from the floor and 3-for-11 (27.3%) from 3-point range. The Bulldogs were 2-for-37 (5.4%) from beyond the arc in their previous four games. MSU outscored South Carolina 42-16 in the paint and also made 20 of 27 (74.1%) free throws to 11 of 19 (57.9%) for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina was led by senior guard Erik Stevenson with 18 points, while freshman guard Devin Carter added 10 points. As a team, the Gamecocks shot just 17-for-60 (28.3%), including just 4-for-31 (12.9%) in the second half.
The first half was tight, with neither team leading by more than seven points. The Bulldogs led 6-0 early, but Stevenson, who had 13 first-half points, made two 3-pointers and redshirt junior guard Jermaine Couisnard made one to give the Gamecocks a 13-8 lead with 14:00 left in the half.
The score was tied 34-34 before Molinar knocked down a pair of free throws to give MSU a 36-34 lead at the halftime break.
Junior center Wildens Leveque opened the second half with a dunk to tie the game at 36-36, but the Bulldogs scored the next nine points to take a 45-36 lead with 16:53 left. The Gamecocks responded with a 7-0 spurt to draw within three at 47-44.
Freshman forward Ta’Quan Woodley got a steal off of freshman Cam Carter. Woodley lobbed the ball to senior forward Keyshawn Bryant for a dunk that would have trimmed MSU’s lead to one point, but Bryant missed, and Moore grabbed the rebound. Smith made a second-chance layup on the other end that gave MSU a five-point lead at 49-44. South Carolina never got closer.
The Bulldogs outscored the Gamecocks 26-7 the rest of the way on their way to outscoring the Gamecocks 37-17 in the second half and earning a 73-51 win.
The Bulldogs will now play No. 9 Tennessee, the No. 2 seed, in the quarterfinals on Friday at 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network.