TAMPA, FL - A spirited second-half rally lifted Mississippi State past South Carolina 82-68 in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Friday afternoon at St. Pete Times Forum.
MSU trailed the first 25 minutes of the game before finding its offensive rhythm, while moving to another gear in the rebounding department. The Bulldogs finished the contest strong, closing out the Gamecocks with a game-ending 18-7 run.
It was MSU's first win over USC in three SEC Tournament meetings. Western Division third seed MSU (21-12) will now face Western Division top seed LSU (26-6) in a noon CT semifinal round contest on Saturday. That contest will be televised regionally by Raycom Sports and shown in selected markets on Fox Sports Net South and Sun Sports.
LSU edged Kentucky 67-58 in Friday's first quarterfinal matchup. MSU started things slowly Friday, hitting only two of its first 11 shots from the field. Conversely, the Gamecocks (21-9) opened hot, quickly grabbing a 10-2 lead.
Behind the 3-point shooting of Barry Stewart and another spark from reserve Kodi Augustus, the Bulldogs slowly battled back. A Jarvis Varnado dunk cut the USC lead to 22-18 with 6:49 left in the half. Thanks in part to strong offensive play by Zam Fredrick, the Gamecocks maintained their slight push, holding a 36-32 lead at the intermission.
MSU finally got over the hump in the early stages of the second half. A Phil Turner dunk gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game, at 43-42 with 14:57 remaining.
The teams were then tied four times before Stewart gave his squad the lead for good with yet another 3-point basket. That trey gave MSU a 58-55 lead with 7:04 left in the contest. It also opened a 7-0 run with Bost ramming home another 3-pointer for a 62-55 MSU advantage.
The Gamecocks closed within 64-61 on a Sam Muldrow putback. However, stout defensive pressure and more intensity on the boards helped the Bulldogs close the door on their fourth straight victory.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 27 of 58 shots from the field (46.6 percent), 8 of 15 shots from 3-point range (53.3 percent) and 20 of 28 shots from the foul line (71.4 percent). The Gamecocks hit 27 of 76 shots from the field (35.5 percent), 5 of 22 shots from 3-point range (22.7 percent) and 9 of 13 shots from the foul line (69.2 percent).
MSU held a 50-36 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 12 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Gamecocks had 10 assists and five turnovers. Stewart paced the Bulldogs with 21, including four 3-point baskets.
Also in double figures were Bost with 14 points, Varnado with 12 points and Ravern Johnson with 11 points. Bost had a team-high 10 rebounds, while Varnado just missed another double-double with nine boards. Varnado did block six shots. Fredrick paced the Gamecocks with 20 points.