College Sports

February 19, 2009

Gamecocks basketball team's luck runs out in Starkville

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- This one saw another buzzer-beating shot for South Carolina. Only this time, it did nothing else but boost a reserve's scoring average.

The important shot came about 47 seconds earlier -- from the other team.

USC fell 75-70 to Mississippi State on Wednesday, squandering a chance to be alone in first place in its division.

USC started the day tied for first with Tennessee, which was playing less than two hours away in Oxford. Both teams lost to their Magnolia state rivals.

Florida's win, and Kentucky's loss the night before, created the division's second four-way tie in a week.

USC (18-6 overall) was coming off a two-point win at Alabama, its fourth win in the final six seconds of the season. If this one had come down to another buzzer beater, the Gamecocks' luck may have been on their side again.

But this time the final minute hero was Mississippi State's Phil Turner, who hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give his team a five-point lead. Perhaps just as painful for USC, the shot finished off a minute-long possession, thanks to two offensive rebounds for the Bulldogs.

As the game wound down, Mississippi State made its free throws, and USC's 3-pointers fell off. The only one that went in came from reserve Brandis Raley-Ross, shaving the final deficit from eight.

Former Chester standout Devan Downey led the Gamecocks with 19 points. The Gamecocks led by as many as 10 in the first half, and had several leads in the second.

It was an up-tempo game, but both teams had offensive troubles. USC was plagued by turnovers, and Mississippi State by missed layups.

USC jumped out to a 7-2 lead, despite missing its first three free throws. Midway through the half the score was 23-13.

A potential stumbling block for USC arose when its two best post players, Sam Muldrow and Mike Holmes, picked up their second fouls. The pair sat the final 7:37 of the first half, and the Gamecocks went with a small lineup.

But the Gamecocks still managed to build the lead to nine, and led 37-33 at the break.

USC entered as the second-best 3-point shooting team, and Mississippi State third. But in the first half USC was 0-for-6, and MSU 2-for-9.

But consecutive 3s, by Dee Bost then Ravern Johnson, vaulted the Bulldogs into a 41-38 lead.

Soon it was a seven-point game and the Bulldogs had the ball. Then Darrin Horn, who had been trying to sneak some rest for Downey, put his star back in.

That ignited a 10-2 run, with the last eight points coming from Downey, two of them on 3s.

From there it was a game of mini-runs. Mississippi State led by five, then USC went up by four. MSU went back up by two.

Then USC was bitten by the turnover again. Holmes, trying to back into the post, dribbled the ball out of bounds with 1:47 left. Then the Bulldogs got two straight offensive rebounds, setting up Turner's shot.

Miss. St.75 USC70

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