COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – No. 2/2 South Carolina outlasted No. 10/10 Mississippi St., 57-51, behind clutch fourth-quarter performances from guards Tiffany Mitchell and Khadijah Sessions on Sunday afternoon at Humphrey Coliseum. Mitchell notched her second 20-point game of the season, finishing with a game-high 21 points against the Bulldogs, who missed seven of their final nine field goal attempts in the contest. The Gamecocks moved to 19-0 overall and 7-0 in SEC play with the victory.
The senior leadership of Mitchell and Sessions proved to be the difference in the fourth quarter, as the pair tallied 13 of South Carolina’s final 15 points of the game to secure the win in Sunday’s back-and-forth affair. With a 42-41 lead midway through the fourth quarter, Mitchell rattled off the Gamecocks’ next seven points to help them build a 49-43 lead with just over three minutes remaining. It was then Sessions’ turn, as the guard knocked down two key jumpers over the next two minutes. Her second basket during that span gave South Carolina a 53-49 advantage with 30 seconds left to play before the Bulldogs responded with a pair of free throws to get back within two. Guard Asia Dozier converted both attempts from the line four seconds later, and Mitchell provided the exclamation point with two more free throws to push the lead to 57-51 with 10 seconds to play.
After a Mississippi State 3-pointer cut South Carolina’s lead to 34-33 early in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks responded with back-to-back field goals from center Alaina Coates to make it 39-35. Guard Tina Roy’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to 42-35, but the Bulldogs answered with a 6-0 run before Mitchell and Sessions helped South Carolina seize control for the remainder of the game.
Both offenses suffered slow starts in the early going, combining to go 2-of-11 from the floor in the first five minutes. Mitchell’s 3-pointer from the corner three minutes into the contest gave South Carolina a 5-2 lead, and the senior guard’s layup with 4:05 left in the period made it 7-4. The Gamecocks’ offensive struggles continued down the stretch of the first quarter, as they missed their final seven shots and were held scoreless for the remaining 4:05 of the period. The Bulldogs regained the lead following a jumper by Morgan William and headed to the second quarter with a slight 8-7 advantage.
Another field goal from William out of the break pushed the Mississippi State lead to 10-7 before Mitchell, who scored nine of South Carolina’s first 11 points, cut the deficit to one following a pair of free throws. After the Bulldogs built their largest advantage of the game at 16-11, the Gamecock shooters responded with a 3-pointer by Roy followed by a layup in transition by Sessions to even the score halfway through the second quarter. Aj’a Wilson’s first basket of the night extended the scoring run to 7-0 and made it 18-16 South Carolina, but the game remained to go back-and-forth with buckets from both teams in the final minute of the half.
William maneuvered around the Gamecock defense and converted a layup to give Mississippi State a 20-19 advantage before an excellent hustle play from forward Sarah Imovbioh on the other end led to a South Carolina 3-pointer in the final moments. Guard Bianca Cuevas was sent to the line with seconds left in the period, and it was Imovbioh who wrestled for the rebound and won the ball following Cuevas’ miss on her second attempt. On the ensuing inbounds play, Cuevas found Roy, who banked home a 3-pointer in the final second and sent South Carolina into the locker room with a 22-20 lead despite 14 first-half turnovers from the Gamecocks. Imovbioh made her impact felt on the glass in the opening two periods, as the senior collected six rebounds in just six minutes of action. Mitchell and Roy combined for five of South Carolina’s seven field goals over the first 20 minutes.
Mitchell continued to power the offense in the early stages of the second half, and her forth field goal of the contest extended the advantage before a layup by Sessions on the next possession gave South Carolina its largest lead of the night at 28-20. The game remained a defensive struggle, and the Gamecocks’ maintained a slight lead for the remainder of the third quarter. Roy’s field goal with 3:19 left in the period made it 32-25, and Wilson gave South Carolina a 34-26 lead following a bucket down low with just over a minute remaining. Four free throws from the Bulldogs cut the lead to 34-30 as the two teams headed into the final quarter.
Sessions recorded 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, while Roy finished in double figures for the second-straight game, chipping in 11 points and three 3-pointers. The South Carolina defense held the Bulldogs to just 27.1 percent (16-of-59) from the floor and boasted a 28-10 advantage in points in the paint. Three Bulldogs contributed double-digit point efforts, including guard Victoria Vivians, who scored a team-high 19 points.
The Gamecock defense remained tough down the stretch, holding the Bulldogs to just two field goals over the final five minutes. Mississippi State missed its final four shot attempts of the game.
South Carolina boasted a 12-5 advantage in bench points on Sunday. Guard Tina Roy accounted for 11 of South Carolina’s 12 points off the bench.
• Mississippi State’s 27.1 shooting percentage in Sunday’s loss marked its lowest of the season.
• Guard Tina Roy has made at least three 3-pointers in six of her last eight contests. She leads the Gamecocks with 41 3-pointers this season.
• Forward Sarah Imovbioh’s seven rebounds matched her SEC career high. Six of her seven boards came in the first half.
• The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents in the fourth quarter in six of their seven games in SEC play this season. South Carolina has scored at least 20 points in the final period in five of their seven conference games.
The Gamecocks return to action on Thurs., Jan. 28, when they host Ole Miss. Tipoff from Colonial Life Arena is set for 7 p.m. (ET), and the contest can be seen on SEC Network+.