- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - South Carolina’s Brenton Williams had seven 3-pointers and a game-high 27 points in a 74-62 road victory over Mississippi State Saturday.

Williams had four of those 3-pointers in the second half to highlight a 22-4 run by South Carolina. Sindarius Thornwell added 22 points for the Gamecocks (12-19, 5-13 SEC).

Williams was 7 of 14 beyond the arc and made five straight 3-pointers in a five-minute stretch in the second half.

“I definitely felt good and it was just one of those moments,” said Williams. “That stretch was very important and my teammates kept encouraging me to step up and make plays. I felt like that was what I needed to do and I felt I did a pretty good job of that.”

Mississippi State (13-18, 3-15) dropped its 13th straight game. Craig Sword led the Bulldogs with 19 points.

South Carolina played the game without head coach Frank Martin, who was serving a one-game suspension handed down by the university earlier in the week. South Carolina assistant Matt Figger handled the head coach duties on Saturday.

“I am 1-0 now (as a head coach) so I am retiring,” said Figger jokingly. “But what an effort by Brenton and he really carried us when we needed it the most in the second half. There are no guarantees for him after next Wednesday so he played his best basketball as a senior.”

The Gamecocks led by as many as 11 points in the opening half, largely due to points in the paint and Mississippi State turnovers. The Bulldogs shot 53 percent in the first half but had 12 turnovers en route to a 36-29 deficit at halftime. South Carolina outscored the Bulldogs 26-14 in the paint in the first half and had 13 offensive rebounds in the 1st half.

“We gave up 13 second-chance points and then 10 more points off our turnovers in the first half,” said Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray. “We didn’t take care of those things in the first half. A lot of that is about a sustained effort and we didn’t have that. Not a physical sustained effort but a mentally sustained effort. And that is just about not having enough bodies.”

Mississippi State opened the second half on an 11-0 run and held a 47-41 lead. Fred Thomas had 15 points for the Bulldogs, with seven of his points during that 11-0 run.

South Carolina controlled the boards 46-27 and finished with 21 offensive rebounds. Led by Williams, the Gamecocks were 10 of 20 behind the arc.

South Carolina opens the SEC Tournament as the 13th seed and will face Auburn, while Mississippi State, the 14th seed, will face Vanderbilt on Wednesday in Atlanta.