South Carolina basketball fans have had to endure a lot of talk about how the Gamecocks hadn't beaten many good teams so far in the 2023-2024 season. Despite beating quality opponents like Grand Canyon, Virginia Tech, George Washington, and East Carolina, critics argued that USC wouldn't do well in conference play against a deep Southeastern Conference.
So far, so good for Lamont Paris and the Gamecocks.
The game started off ugly as the Bulldogs shoved the Gamecocks around in the paint in the first few minutes and led 11-3. During that early run, Coach Paris took out starting post players Stephen Clark and BJ Mack and inserted Josh Gray and Collin Murray-Boyles.
The move paid off as the two reserves played physically and provided the wake-up call needed for Clark and Mack. They physicality was much better for the garnet and black the rest of the way, and the Gamecocks actually outrebounded the Bulldogs by 9 for the game.
Myles Stute scored 13 points in a row from the end of the 1st half through the start of the 2nd, and then Meechie Johnson took over to preserve USC's small lead.
Johnson finished with a game-high 24 points despite only taking 12 shot attempts from the field, and he tied for the team lead with 6 rebounds (that mark was tied with Mack and Stute).
Mississippi State got some good performances from Tolu Smith, Josh Hubbard, and Shakeel Moore, but they couldn't overcome their lack of outside shooting and the fouls that piled up against them.
The Gamecocks won the contest 68-62 to start their SEC season 1-0.