State takes Carolina at SEC quarters

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Barry Stewart scored 21 points, most of them from 3-point range, and Mississippi State beat South Carolina 82-68 Friday in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

Dee Bost added 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-12), who won their fourth straight and might have eliminated the Gamecocks from consideration for the NCAA tournament.

South Carolina (21-9) has lost three of four down the stretch, a skid that could offset the team’s strong RPI (No. 49) during the NCAA’s selection process.

The Gamecocks felt like they let this one get away. They had a double-digit lead early and a four-point advantage at halftime.

But they were outplayed in the second half. Stewart did a big chunk of the damage, hitting consecutive 3s that put Mississippi State ahead for good.

Zam Fredrick led the Gamecocks with 20 points.

Boxscore

State is playing their best basketball of the year. Coach Stansbury said the same in the post-game interview after yesterday’s 19-point victory over Georgia.

Today’s key performance was turned in by Barry Stewart, whose clutch 3-pointers tied the game at 55, and then put the Dogs ahead for keeps with just over 7 minutes to play. Late season X-factor Kodi Augustus, who reminds me of Donte Jones on the ’96 Final Four Squad, had another solid performance, as the State bench provided the difference in these two otherwise evenly matched teams.

Tomorrow’s semi-final is against LSU, a 67-58 winner over Kentucky in today’s early game. Here’s hoping the third time’s the charm for State.

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