EditorsNote: Added Perry's 1st name in 2nd graf; Removed Perry's 1st name in 6th graf
In a clash of surging SEC squads, Mississippi State fended off multiple South Carolina rallies to earn a 79-76 victory Wednesday night in Starkville, Miss.
Nick Weatherspoon produced 18 points and six assists while D.J. Stewart Jr. posted 16 points and Abdul Ado 14 to pace Mississippi State (17-9, 8-5), which won for the eighth time in the past 11 games. Reggie Perry (10 points, 10 rebounds) added his 14th double-double of the season as the Bulldogs led for the final 31-plus minutes.
Maik Kotsar scored 24 points to lead South Carolina (16-10, 8-5), which also has won eight of its past 11. Jermaine Couisnard contributed 17 points and A.J. Lawson 12.
Kotsar hit his first seven shots from the field during the opening 12:28 to pull South Carolina to 21-20. He didn't score the rest of the half, however, as Mississippi State opened a 36-27 lead at the break.
The Bulldogs tried to knock out the Gamecocks early in the second half. Stewart slithered to the hoop and threw down a lefty dunk on a pair of South Carolina defenders to help the hosts build a 48-37 margin, but South Carolina closed within 48-44 on Lawson's putback with 12:02 to go.
As the game's pace quickened, Mississippi State launched another assault built on dunks. Tyson Carter's no-look feed set up Perry for a slam, then 13 seconds later Perry pushed the ball on the break and gave it to Weatherspoon for a two-handed dunk and a 57-48 lead that forced South Carolina to take a timeout with 8:34 left.
The Gamecocks recovered again and got as close as 61-58 on Wildens Leveque's jumper with 5:35 to go. That's when Stewart stepped forward with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in a 31-second span. Weatherspoon added a 15-footer and a hanging layup to push Mississippi State's lead to 71-60 with 2:26 left.
South Carolina kept forcing Mississippi State into turnovers and pulled within 76-75 on Jair Bolden's 3-pointer with seven seconds left. Weatherspoon sank a pair of free throws to restore a 3-point edge, then the Bulldogs fouled Couisnard before he could launch a game-tying 3-pointer.
--Field Level Media