ASHVILLE, Tenn. - No. 12 South Carolina (14-18, 4-14 SEC) dropped a SEC Tournament matchup to No. 13 Mississippi State (10-21, 4-14 SEC) 70-59 on Wednesday night at Bridgestone Arena. Junior guard Bruce Ellington led South Carolina with 13 points.
Freshman forward Laimonas Chatkevicius was the only other Gamecock to reach double figures, scoring 11 in the contest to go with his five rebounds. Freshman forward Michael Carrera added nine points and six rebounds. Freshman forward Brian Steele recorded a team-high seven rebounds.
Freshman guard Fred Thomas led the way for Mississippi State, scoring a game-high 21 points. Junior forward Colin Borchert and sophomore forward Roquez Johnson added 11 points and eight rebounds each. Freshman forward Gavin Ware scored 10 and tallied seven boards. The Bulldogs were active defensively, registering 12 steals to four for the Gamecocks.
Mississippi State hit 46.9 percent of their shots from the field (23-49), connecting on 7-of-15 (46.7%) from behind the 3-point line. South Carolina's shooting percentage of 37.5 percent (24-64) included a 6-of-31 (19.4%) performance from 3-point range.
Chatkevicius hit his second jumper of the game to tie the contest at 11 with 12:33 to play in the first half.
South Carolina struggled with turnovers through the middle part of the first half. The Bulldogs capitalized with a pair of 3s from Thomas, and another from junior guard Tyson Cunningham to hold a 26-13 upperhand with 6:57 to play, forcing a Gamecock timeout.
A jumper from sophomore guard Damien Leonard with 4:44 remaining in the first half halted the Bulldog run and gave the Gamecocks their first points since the 10:54 mark. Leonard followed with a 3 on the next possession to put the score at 26-18 with 4:06 to play in the first half.
Chatkevicius would add four more points to close the half, but MSU's Ware also connected for two baskets, putting the score at 32-21 at halftime. Carolina hit just 9-of-29 attempts (31.0%) in the first half, compared to 45.8 percent (11-24) from the Bulldogs. Chatkevicius led the Gamecocks with seven points in the first half, Borchert and Ware led the Bulldogs with nine points each. Both teams committed eight turnovers in the first half.
Ellington hit a 3 with 15 minutes remaining to put the score at 40-33 Bulldogs. MSU's Cunningham missed a pair of free throws at the 14-minute mark, and Ellington hit another 3 on the ensuing possession, which saw Carolina trail by just four at 40-36.
The Bulldogs responded with layups from freshman guard Craig Sword and Thomas, pushing the lead back to eight at 44-36 with 12:32 showing on the clock.
The teams traded made baskets and the Bulldog lead climbed back to 11, but a 3 from junior guard Eric Smith at the 7:51 mark put the score at 53-47 MSU.
The Gamecocks continued to battle, but the Bulldog lead stood at 60-49 with five minutes to play.
Smith hit a lay-up and senior forward Lakeem Jackson connected for a jumper to see the Gamecocks trail by just seven at 60-53. Junior guard Brenton Williams hit his second 3 of the contest on the next possession for a 60-56 score, capping a 7-0 Carolina run with 3:35 to play.
After a Johnson free throw, the Gamecocks and Bulldogs both left points on the free throw line after Sword missed a pair for MSU and Steele missed the front end of a one-and-one for South Carolina.
Thomas scored the next five points of the game, connecting on a shot from long range to give Mississippi State a 64-56 advantage. He added two free throws after a missed 3 pointer from Williams to push the lead back to 10 with 1:39 on the clock.
Ellington responded with a long jumper and drew a foul as well. After Ellington converted the three-point play, the Gamecocks had cut the lead to seven at 66-59 with 1:32 left in the game.
Thomas missed a 3 on the other end, but Johnson was under the basket for a put back, to stretch the lead back to nine and the Gamecocks were unable to convert their last five shots. Mississippi State advanced to the next round of the SEC Tournament with a 70-59 win.