- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi State played one of the nation’s best teams to a virtual standstill in front of a record crowd at Humphrey Coliseum.

A few missed opportunities - and South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell - kept the Bulldogs from celebrating with the fans.

Mitchell scored 21 points, including nine points in a tight fourth quarter, and No. 2 South Carolina beat No. 10 Mississippi State 57-51 on Sunday.

“At the end of the day, when you’re playing the No. 2 team in the country, you’ve got to make plays for 40 minutes,” Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer said. “We made plays for about 39 of them.”

The Gamecocks (19-0, 7-0 Southeastern Conference) led for almost the entire second half, but struggled to fight off Mississippi State in the final minutes. The Bulldogs cut South Carolina’s lead to 44-43 with 3:30 left, but Mitchell responded with five straight points to help push the Gamecocks to the road win.

“I think we just wore them down,” Mitchell said. “That’s what we do. We’re not going to blow everyone out in the first 10 or 15 minutes.

“We know we’ve got to keep pounding at them and then make a run.”

Tina Roy added 11 points for the Gamecocks. Khadijah Sessions scored 10, including a crucial 15-foot jumper with 30 seconds left to give South Carolina a 53-49 lead.

Mississippi State (17-4, 4-3) has lost two straight games. The Bulldogs were playing in front of a program-record 10,626 fans, but couldn’t deliver the victory.

“Heck of a basketball game today,” Schaefer said. “We just ran out of time.”

Victoria Vivians led Mississippi State with 19 points, but made just 7 of 25 shots. Mississippi State shot just 16 of 59 (27.1 percent) from the field.

A’ja Wilson, South Carolina’s leading scorer, was held to just six points, but Mitchell, Roy and others picked up the slack. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Mississippi State’s crowd was a factor in the up-and-down performance.

The 57 points were a season low for the Gamecocks.

“The biggest thing is we’ve got to figure out how to stay in character from start to finish,” Staley said. “The crowd did have an effect on us. I thought it gave (Mississippi State) energy and we just have to do better.”

Roy banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Gamecocks a 22-20 halftime lead.

Both teams struggled to get open looks in the first half - Mississippi State shot just 9 of 31 (29 percent) from the field while South Carolina was only a little better at 7 of 20 (35 percent).

The Gamecocks didn’t heat up until the fourth quarter, but it was enough to win the game.

The defensive showdown was no surprise. Both teams are averaging less than 60 points per game in the series since Staley became South Carolina’s coach in 2008.

South Carolina had a 40-31 rebounding advantage. Alaina Coates and Wilson both had 11 rebounds.

TIP-INS

South Carolina: Wilson came into the game averaging 21.5 points and 11.3 rebounds against ranked opponents.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have hosted two of the three largest crowds in program history over the past two games. More than 7,100 came to watch Mississippi State beat rival Ole Miss on Monday.

UP NEXT

South Carolina hosts Mississippi on Thursday.

Mississippi St hosts No. 18 Tennessee on Thursday.

___

Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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