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South Carolina clinches share of SEC title

1603 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: Richard Shiro | AP

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tiffany Mitchell scored 16 points to lead No. 2 South Carolina to a 69-50 victory over No. 11 Mississippi State and clinch a share of its second straight Southeastern Conference championship Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (27-1, 15-0 SEC) can win the title outright Sunday -- and match the 2011 Tennessee team as the only 16-0 champs in SEC history -- with a win at No. 13 Kentucky. They would also claim the crown alone should the Lady Vols fall Sunday against Vanderbilt.

No matter what happens, South Carolina heads to next week's SEC tournament as the No. 1 seed and team to beat. The Gamecocks showed that again, using an 18-5 first-half run to take control with a 39-23 lead.

The Bulldogs (25-5, 10-5) could not cut the lead to fewer than 10 points after that. Victoria Vivians and LaKaris Salter had 14 points each to lead Mississippi State.

The Bulldogs were held to their fewest points this season and shot less than 35 percent from the field for the third time in their past five games. Salter, a freshman forward, gave Mississippi State a jolt as she hit four of five 3-pointers after entering in the final six minutes.

South Carolina's A'ja Wilson, the 6-foot-5 forward contending with Vivians for SEC freshman of the year, had 13 points and seven rebounds. Alaina Coates, last year's league freshman of the year, added 10 points and seven boards.

The Gamecocks' closing gauntlet continued against the 11th-ranked Bulldogs, just three days after a hard-fought, 71-66 victory over No. 6 Tennessee to wrest control of the SEC race.

Mississippi State had seven players 6-foot or taller to match up and mash underneath with the Gamecocks' towers of Wilson, Elem Ibiam (6-4) and Coates (6-4). The Bulldogs pushed the pace early -- they put up 21 shots to South Carolina's 12 over the first 15 minutes -- and were within three at 21-18 after Ketera Chapel's second straight layup with 5:27 left in the half.

That's when South Carolina took off on an 18-5 run led by defending SEC player of the year Mitchell.

Mitchell stole the ball for an uncontested layup and followed with pull-up jumper. Moments later, Mitchell had another steal and got fouled as she finished the fast-break opportunity for a three-point play and a 31-18 lead.

South Carolina's post players got involved down the stretch with Coates getting fouled on her inside basket. Wilson grabbed Coates' miss on a foul shot for another basket to put the Gamecocks in front 39-23.

Mississippi State's 26 points at the break were its fewest first-half points in 11 games.

TIP INS

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have set records for most wins in a season (25) and most road wins (seven). Their 10 SEC victories are tied for the most in school history.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won 32 straight at home, tying the school record set between 1977 and 1980.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State: Closes the regular season at home Sunday against state rival Mississippi State.

South Carolina: Last regular-season game Sunday at No. 13 Kentucky.