BC-BKW--T25-Mississippi St-South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Teaira McCowan had 18 points and 17 rebounds as No. 5 Mississippi State survived a wild finish to defeat No. 14 South Carolina 68-64 and win the Southeastern Conference title on Sunday.
The Bulldogs (27-2, 15-1 SEC) were up 11 points with under seven minutes left before the Gamecocks rallied to 66-64 on Tyasha Harris’ steal and breakaway layup with 42.7 seconds to go. But it was Mississippi State that made the big plays after that.
Anriel Howard got the rebound after teammate Jordan Danberry missed two free throws on the next possession. Danberry got the board when Andra Espinoza-Hunter missed a short jumper with 10 seconds left.
And the 6-foot-7 McCowan picked up Danberry’s missed foul shot with 2 seconds to go to secure the win for Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs had wrapped up the No. 1 seed for next week’s league tournament with Kentucky’s win over Georgia before holding on to sweep the Gamecocks (21-8, 14-2).
South Carolina led 39-32 at halftime, holding Mississippi State to its lowest-scoring first half this season.
But behind McCowan, the Bulldogs charged in front with a 17-4 start to the third quarter. McCowan, the likely SEC player of the year, had eight points during the stretch and eventually wore down the smaller Gamecocks — who no longer have 6-5 A’ja Wilson to match up with and slow down McCowan.
Howard had 13 points and 16 rebounds while Espinoza-Hunter had 17 points for Mississippi State, who beat the Gamecocks twice in a season for the first time since 2009.
McCowan had her 24th double-double this season. She was particularly potent against the Gamecocks, going off for 44 points and 41 rebounds in the two games.
Harris led the Gamecocks with 20 points while Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Mississippi State entered with a share of its second straight SEC championship. It also had a recent history of falling to the Gamecocks in some major moments, including a 67-55 loss to South Carolina in the 2017 national championship game.
And the Bulldogs struggled to keep up in the first two quarters as South Carolina used a 25-10 run during a 10-minute stretch to open a 32-22 lead.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs got the outright title they wanted along with some confidence they can outmuscle the Gamecocks in a hostile environment. It might prove handy come next week should the teams meet in SEC Tournament, being played about two hours north of here in Greenville.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks fought hard, but had no answer for McCowan or Mississippi State’s rebounding. South Carolina was outrebounded 51-37.
Both teams play in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday.
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