No. 1 South Carolina sinks Mississippi State women

Published 8:29 am Monday, January 8, 2024

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was grateful for the victory, just not how her top-ranked Gamecocks played on the way to the win over Mississippi State.

“I thought we did enough to win a basketball game, probably not enough to win the league,” Staley said after South Carolina improved to 14-0 with an 85-66 victory over Mississippi State on Sunday.

“It seemed like it was fun time out there,” Staley continued. “I don’t know, we’ve got to get back to disciplined basketball.”

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Bree Hall led the Gamecocks with 15 points including back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter to stretch out an uncomfortably close margin.

Kamilla Cardoso added 13 points, 14 rebounds and a team-high six assists and Chloe Kitts and Te-Hina Paopao had 12 points apiece for the Gamecocks (2-0 SEC), who opened 14-0 for a second straight season.

Hall and Staley said the postgame locker room was one of difficult questions and comments not typically associated with one of the last three remaining undefeated programs in the country.

“We definitely were saying we did not meet the standards today and we will meet them the next day, immediately,” said Hall, a junior in her third season with the Gamecocks.

This game was far from a runaway midway through the third quarter with Mississippi State hanging around, down just 54-44 and sticking tight. That’s when Hall struck for her long-range baskets to the cheers of the once-edgy fans.

Mississippi State (13-4, 0-2) could not respond and fell to 1-16 all-time against top-ranked opponents.

The Bulldogs have always been a troublesome opponent for the Gamecocks and gave the star-laden team of Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke all they could handle in South Carolina’s 58-51 win a year ago.

It was the same thing early on in this one with the Bulldogs up 19-16 late in the opening period. That’s when South Carolina responded with a 10-2 run to take a lead they did not relinquish on the way to a sixth straight victory in the series.

Jerkaila Jordan led the Bulldogs with 25 points. Lauren Park-Lane added 14.

The Bulldogs were 3-for-19 from 3-point range. After Debreasha Powe made their first attempt with 7:59 left in the first quarter, they missed 15 in a row until Jordan sank one with 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jordan was disappointed with the result, but said her team played hard throughout.

Mississippi State played toe-to-toe against the Gamecocks, snatching 22 offensive boards to South Carolina’s 16. The Bulldogs also matched their opponent in points in the paint (40) and points off turnovers (11), something South Carolina has dominated much of the season.

“We have no regrets,” Jordan said.