GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling SEC squads will close out the regular season on Saturday afternoon, as the Mississippi State Bulldogs welcome the South Carolina Gamecocks to Humphrey Coliseum.
South Carolina enjoyed its season highlight last Saturday when it took down nationally-ranked Kentucky at home, 72-67, but it fell back on its losing ways on Tuesday with a 72-46 defeat at the hands of first-place Florida. The Gamecocks have now lost four of five to slip to 11-19 overall and 4-13 in league action.
Even though Mississippi State has a better overall record than South Carolina (13-17), it sits alone in last place in the SEC with a 3-14 mark due to its current 12-game losing streak. The Bulldogs lost at Georgia on Wednesday night, 66-45, but despite their struggles they are still a solid 11-6 at home.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with the Gamecocks, 18-9, most recently beating South Carolina in the first round of the 2013 SEC Tournament, 70-59.
The Gamecocks hung tough with Florida for a while in their most recent game and even tied the score early in the second half, but the Gators ripped off 11 unanswered points from there and eventually cruised to the 26-point win. South Carolina shot just 32 percent from the field on the evening, including 4-of-16 from 3-point range, and was plagued by a game-high 19 turnovers. Mindaugas Kacinas was one of the few standouts with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Duane Notice finished with 11 points despite shooting only 2-of-7 from the floor.
South Carolina hasn't been able to get much going offensively this season, as it shoots just 41.8 percent from the field for 68.7 ppg, which has not been enough to support a lackluster scoring defense (71.0 ppg). Brenton Williams scores a team-best 14.8 ppg thanks mostly to his 80-of-188 showing from beyond the arc (.426), and he's also the nation's most accurate free-throw shooter at 95.4 percent. Sindarius Thornwell chips in 13.3 ppg but does so on a mere 37.6 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs held an eight-point lead midway through the first half earlier in the week but fell victim to a 29-8 run by Georgia to close out the opening stanza before ultimately suffering the 21-point setback, as they shot just 34 percent from the field, including a dreadful 0-of-15 showing from 3-point range. No one scored in double figures in the loss, with Roquez Johnson and Craig Sword coming the closest with nine points apiece.
Unsurprisingly, Mississippi State ranks near the bottom of the SEC this season in both scoring offense (67.5 ppg) and scoring defense (71.1 ppg), and while its field-goal percentage hasn't been terrible (.439), it has been held back by shooting a lowly 30 percent from beyond the arc and just 66.2 percent at the free-throw line. Sword is the top scoring option with 13.2 ppg and is also a solid perimeter defender with 1.9 spg. Gavin Ware shoots just shy of 60 percent from the field, while tallying 10.3 ppg and 7.1 rpg, and Johnson (9.6 ppg), Colin Borchert (9.0 ppg) and Fred Thomas (8.6 ppg) have also been solid.
Even with Mississippi State reeling with its prolonged losing streak, it'll have a great chance of snapping out of it at home against a South Carolina squad that has lost all 11 of its away games this season.
Game Date and Time