No. 1 South Carolina women beat No. 9 Mississippi St 81-79
Womens College Headlines
(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Down nine points in the fourth quarter and close to getting run out of her building, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley didn't panic. Her top-ranked Gamecocks wouldn't let her.
Tyasha Harris had a season-high 23 points and the Gamecocks rallied in the final period to win their 12th straight with a 81-79 victory over No. 9 Mississippi State on Monday night.
Staley called time out after South Carolina trailed 71-62 with eight minutes to go and quickly saw her players were locked in and eager to turn things around.
“Everybody was really positive in that time out," Staley said. “So I'm like, ‘We got a shot. We've got a shot to come back because they believe.'"
Harris and the Gamecocks put that belief into action, snapping off a 12-2 run to get them back into the game.
Zia Cooke made a three-point play and a basket, both which put the Gamecocks (18-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) back in front.
JaMya Mingo-Young had consecutive shots as Mississippi State (17-3, 4-1) built a 79-76 lead with 3:28 to go. But the Bulldogs missed their final five shots.
Mississippi State had several chances to go in front, but Rickea Jackson and Jordan Danberry both missed shots to put the Bulldogs back in front in the final two minutes.
Cooke closed it with her steal of an inbounds pass with 4 seconds left and ran out the clock.
“Let's catch it," Cooke thought as the ball came her way. “And then I need to run away from her so she can't catch me and end it."
Harris scored the final five points for the Gamecocks, who got a sixth victory in seven meetings with a Top-25 opponent this season.
South Carolina freshman Aliyah Boston had 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Mississippi State looked like it might beat its second straight No. 1 opponent - the first came when it famously ended UConn's 111-game win streak at the 2017 national semifinals - as it took that nine-point lead in the final period.
But the Gamecocks got their big run to move back in front on Cooke's three-point play.
“They are No. 1," Mississippi State coach Vic Schaeffer said. “But we're not far behind.”
Indeed, it's likely these teams might match up again at the SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C., come March, then perhaps a final team in the Final Four as they did in 2017 when South Carolina won the the title over Mississippi State.
Mingo-Young, a freshman who tied her career high with 14 points, was confident the Bulldogs would learn and recover from their missed chance.
“We'll figure this thing out," she said.
Jackson and Danberry had 16 points each to lead the Bulldogs, who saw their eight-game win streak snapped.
South Carolina came out fast, as it has all season, with seniors Harris and Herbert Harrigan steadily helping the team to a 33-21 lead with less than seven minutes left to the half.
That's when the defending SEC champion Bulldogs dug in to tighten things up with a 21-10 surge to cut South Carolina's double-digit lead to 43-42 at the break.
Xaria Wiggins scored all eight of her first-half points in that stretch while Jackson had a three-point play and another bucket.
By the time Danberry shoveled a pass to 6-foot-5 Promise Taylor for a close-in basket with 3.2 seconds to go, the Bulldogs were within a point and running into the locker room with cheers and smiles.
THE BIG PICTURE
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs look quicker and peskier this season without last year's SEC player of the year Teaira McCowan. But speed could not contain Boston and South Carolina's rugged inside players down the stretch.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks hadn't been pushed in quite some time and gave a strong response about where they're headed. Cooke and Boston, both freshmen, continue to shine while Harris, one of two remaining players from their 2017 national championship team, is a savvy, steady leader.
HARRIS THE LEADER
Cooke and Boston, both freshman, said Harris, a senior who was a freshman starter for the 2017 national champs, has kept them playing hard and confident.
“When times are hard, we look at her and she keeps us going," Cooke said.
SHARING THE BALL
South Carolina had 17 assists on its 32 baskets while Mississippi State had only five assists on its 33 buckets. Harris led the Gamecocks with a game-high seven assists.
Mississippi State plays its second straight road game at Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
South Carolina starts a two-game road swing at Georgia on Sunday.
Updated January 20, 2020