COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – No. 14/15 South Carolina women’s basketball battled #5/5/ Mississippi State to the bitter end in a 68-64 loss at Colonial Life Arena Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks (21-8, 13-3 SEC) came within two in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs picked up key rebounds down the stretch to close with a win.
Junior guard Tyasha Harris finished with a team-high 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and added four rebounds in 39 minutes. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan scored 13 points off the bench and collected 11 rebounds for her third double-double of the season.
In the first quarter, it was Bianca Cuevas-Moore who got the Gamecocks on the board first. The scoring for both teams was slow in the opening portion of the game, with the score at 6-5 at the media timeout with 4:55 remaining. The scoring picked up with Harris hitting back-to-back buckets to begin a 12-2 run to end the quarter. Herbert Harrigan sank a three to tie the game at 14, and Bianca Jackson hit a three with just seconds remaining to hold a 19-14 advantage after the first.
Carolina continued to dominate in the second quarter. Herbert Harrigan made it a nine-point lead at 27-18 with a jumper at 5:25. Mississippi State’s Teaira McCowan went to the bench with two fouls, and the Gamecocks took advantage in the paint. Carolina lived at the free throw line for a portion of the quarter and had a 10-point lead with 2:12 remaining in the first half. Herbert Harrigan continued her hot play in the first half with a highlight reel block with 28 seconds left before the break to cap off her six-point, four-rebound and three-block second quarter. Harris put an exclamation point on the first half with a long distance 3-pointer to go up seven at the half.
Mississippi State made adjustments at halftime, and quickly took the lead in the third quarter, scoring 10 of the first 12 points of the second half to take a 42-41 lead. Harris continued her aggressive play, hitting two straight shots to keep Carolina close and down just 51-47 after the third.
Senior Nelly Perry came off the bench in the fourth quarter to give the Gamecocks some life after falling behind by as much as 11. Perry hit a pair of free throws with 6:04 to go to give her 1,000 points for her career, which also sparked a 11-2 run, with Perry scoring all six of her points during the run. Despite the surge, Mississippi State clung to its two-point lead for the remainder of the game, and hit free throws late to take the win, 68-64.
Perry’s impact was felt in the fourth quarter, keeping the Gamecocks in striking distance with six points, including a perfect 2-of-2 from both the field and the free throw line.
While the starters struggled at times, the Carolina bench made an impact. Led by Herbert Harrigan’s 13, they outscored Mississippi State’s bench 24-0.
Harris’ 20 points was her SEC high this season, and her fifth-straight game in double figures.
Perry scored her 1,000th career point at the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Carolina finished the regular season with 13 SEC victories, the sixth-straight season with at least 12 league wins.
The Gamecocks finish the regular season in second place in the SEC, the sixth-straight season they have finished in first or second place.
The Gamecocks (21-8, 13-3 SEC) will enter the SEC Tournament as the No. 2 seed and with a double bye will begin play in the quarterfinals on Fri., Mar. 8, at 6 p.m. on SEC Network.