This past Sunday afternoon, the South Carolina Gamecocks (26-6) beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs (32-1) for the second straight year in the SEC title game. Taking place right in the heart of downtown at Bridgestone Arena, A’ja Wilson led her troops to an unprecedented four-peat. Wilson scored 16 points, grabbed eight boards and basically took over the game as the Gamecocks became the first Southeastern Conference women’s program to win four straight tournament championships. The three-time SEC player of the year did all of this while coming off the bench no less.
With the win, the Gamecocks snapped the nation’s longest winning streak at 32, holding Mississippi State to its fewest points all year. The final score was 62-51. Most call it an upset, but this was no upset. This is nothing new. These two teams are very familiar with one another and have a deep rivalry. South Carolina beat the Bulldogs last April for the program’s first national championship. The Gamecocks now have their third straight SEC tournament title at Mississippi State’s expense. They just seem to have Mississippi State’s number. The Bulldogs can’t shake that monkey off their backs. Mississippi State had not lost since last year’s national title game, coming into the SEC tournament final with the Bulldogs’ first regular season championship, and hoping a third try at the tournament title would be the charm. Well, it wasn’t.
“It just wasn’t our day offensively,” said Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer.
The SEC’s best three point shooters struggled mightily, going three for 19 from behind the stripe. They shot only 35% from the field for the game. Teaira McCowan was plagued by foul trouble most of the first half.
Because of this, South Carolina dominated the paint. McCowan, who came in averaging 18 points a game, scored only six in this one. Without McCowan inside, it was rough for the Bulldogs on the offensive and defensive glass. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Bulldogs 38-23 and had a 36-20 edge scoring in the paint. The Gamecocks took full advantage, scoring nine straight points to push their lead out. They led 30-19 at the half.
Mississippi State shot much better in the second half and rallied, but never got closer than five. Wilson scored six straight points for the Gamecocks late, to give them a 56-42 lead—the biggest margin all season for the Bulldogs. The game was all but concluded at that point.
Victoria Vivians led Mississippi State with 17 points. Morgan William ended with 10 points.
“Our kids were engaged and locked into the game plan,” said South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley. “They wanted to create their own history.”
Tyasha Harris scored 14 points for the Gamecocks. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had 13. Bianca Jackson added 11.
After this win, South Carolina will likely capture a number two seed entering the NCAA Tournament. Of course, Mississippi State will still be a number one seed. There will be more drama to come this March. Stay tuned!