South Carolina Basketball: Gamecock start SEC play 1-0 after big home win over good Mississippi State team

South Carolina basketball is now 1-0 in SEC play and 13-1 overall after knocking off Mississippi State at home.

South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris
South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball coach Lamont Paris has done something that has only been done five previous times: he’s gotten the Gamecocks to at least 12 wins in the team’s first 13 games.

USC has already beaten their win total from the 2022-2023 season (when they went 11-21), and Carolina is in the early discussions around NCAA Tournament berths.

SEC play began on Saturday, and South Carolina basketball’s first test was a home contest against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are also viewed as being near the March Madness “bubble,” and star forward Tolu Smith was ready to play in his second game since returning from an offseason foot injury, though, he did not start.

On a cold and wet day in Columbia, South Carolina, the 12:00 tip went the way of the Bulldogs, but BJ Mack got a stop on Jimmy Bell on the first possession; unfortunately, the answer was a really ugly possession in which Carolina passed up multiple open shots before eventually hoisting up a late-clock air ball.

Neither team scored until Shakeel Moore hit a layup for MSU after over 2 minutes of action. The Bulldogs led 4-0 and were bullying the Gamecocks in the post in the early goings, so Coach Paris sent big Josh Gray and Collin Murray-Boyles in for their earliest action of the season. Gray immediately rewarded Coach Paris with a nice defensive possession, a block, and a rebound all on his first time down the floor.

The game continued its slobber knocker-type physicality, and USC had 3 turnovers in the game’s first 5 minutes as they trailed 6-1 (a Meechie Johnson free throw was the only point, but his miss was his first since November).

A big dunk from Myles Stute brought some life to the Colonial Life Arena crowd, and a forced turnover on Cameron Matthews by Murray-Boyles kept the energy high.

That energy disappeared, however, as Josh Gray got two fouls in about six seconds of game action, and Josh Hubbard and Tolu Smith scored 5 quick points to move their lead to 11-3.

A Jacobi Wright 3-pointer mercifully ended the run as Carolina had scored just 3 points in the game’s first 8:12. A really nice defensive possession followed to get the ball back for the Gamecocks at the under-12 media timeout.

Hubbard and Meechie Johnson traded deep balls after the break, and after a few hard-fought possessions, the Bulldogs led 18-12.

A 6-2 run by the Gamecocks made the score 20-18, led by BJ Mack who had 4 points, a block, and a rebound in about a minute. The game slowed, but then the two teams combined for 7 points in less than 30 seconds to make the score 26-23 in favor of Mississippi State.

Heading out of the final media timeout of the half, 2 free throws from Zach Davis cut the lead to 1. The Gamecocks took their first lead with just under 2 minutes remaining when Meechie Johnson canned a layup off the glass after a nice crossover. Despite leading for only 1:13 of game clock in the 1st half, South Carolina basketball took a 30-28 advantage into the halftime break.

After the intermission, Myles Stute and Shakeel Moore traded 3-point jumpers, and the two teams alternated scores and misses until the first media timeout. Myles Stute made another perimeter shot and a layup, meaning he had Carolina’s last 11 points. With 15:40 left in the game, USC led 38-36.

Stute continued his streak of scoring with another layup, and a few possessions later, after three offensive rebounds, Collin Murray-Boyles got into the action with a putback layup to make the score 42-38. Tolu Smith and Dashawn Davis made two shots in the lane, though, to tie the score.

After a timeout, Morris Ugusuk fired up his second airball of the game, but Zach Davis cleaned up the miss and found Collin Murray-Boyles for the bucket through contact. CMB missed the free throw, but BJ Mack got the offensive board, and Meechie Johnson drew a 3-shot foul to give Tolu Smith his 4th.
Johnson made 2 of his 3 freebies and then hit a 3-ball on the next possession. All of a sudden, South Carolina basketball led by 7, 49-42.

After a strange sequence that included a missed shot clock reset, Zach Davis hit a nice pull-up jumper, but Cam Matthews answered with a layup on the other end. Some really tick-tack officiating followed as the Gamecocks were whistled for three fouls in 25 seconds. MSU got just free throws out of the ordeal, however, Meechie Johnson responded with 2 points at the free throw line.

After a Ta’Lon Cooper jumper, the home team led 55-48 with just under 6 minutes to play in the game, but State made back-to-back shots to cut the deficit to just 3 points. A few possessions later, Colonial Life Arena roared with back-to-back free throw misses from DJ Jeffries, resulting in free Chick-fil-A for all in attendance.

An alley-oop from Meechie Johnson to Collin Murray-Boyles then pushed the lead back to 5. With 3 1/2 minutes to play, Carolina led 57-54 after some Tolu Smith free throws.

A huge tip rebound by Stephen Clark led to a Meechie Johnson floater, and Zach Davis stole the ball on MSU’s next possession. Clark threw the subsequent possession away, however, leaving his team with a 5-point lead again with 2:39 on the clock. After almost 50 seconds ticked off the clock, BJ Mack was fouled and made 1 of 2 shots from the line.

A Shakeel Moore make was answered by one from Meechie Johnson with 70 seconds left in the game. With the score standing 62-56, Mississippi State took a timeout.

A few possessions later, Josh Hubbard hit a fallaway 3-pointer through a foul. The make and the free throw cut the lead to 64-62, and what seemed like a manageable lead for the end-of-game free throws was suddenly tight.

Ta’Lon Cooper missed two huge free throws in the final 20 seconds, but Meechie Johnson stole the ball from Dashawn Davis on the next time down the court and was fouled. Johnson made both shots (and two more on another foul in the closing seconds).

The Gamecocks held on to open SEC play with a victory.

533. Final. 62. 530. South Carolina Basketball vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs. 68