South Carolina will be looking to end its losing streak, and leave Colonial Life Arena with a win for the final time for this season, as they are set to host the Mississippi State Bulldogs tonight.
South Carolina is currently mired in a three-game losing streak with its most recent defeat coming against the Texas A&M Aggies in College Station. The Bulldogs and the Gamecocks are currently in a three-way battle with the Auburn Tigers for the worst conference record at 3-13. The Bulldogs previously held a 13-game losing streak before upsetting their arch-rival, the Ole Miss Rebels, 73-67 on their home court in their last game. After an impressive victory, emotions are high for Mississippi State and they definitely have momentum going into this contest.
The two teams have previously met this season in Starkville, as the Bulldogs edged out the Gamecocks 56-54 in Bruce Ellington’s first game back with the basketball team after his game-winning touchdown in the Outback Bowl. That contest came down to the final seconds, as Ellington and Brian Richardson both missed contested 3-pointers in the closing moments.
In the previous matchup, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, junior guard Jalen Steele, played a limited role as he was battling back from a wrist injury. Freshman guard Craig Sword, the Bulldogs second leading scorer at 9.7 points per outing, stepped up for Mississippi State and dropped 18 against the Gamecocks. Sword is capable of a big night any time he steps on the court, as evidenced by his 25-point performance against LSU.
The Gamecocks leading rebounder, freshman Michael Carrera, who has 7.2 boards per game, will be put to the test against the Bulldogs leading rebounder and fellow freshman Gavin Ware, who has 6.4 per contest.
With a win against Mississippi State the Gamecocks could look to string together a winning streak to close out its season against Vanderbilt this Saturday.
Both teams seem to be evenly matched on paper for this one and each team needs all the momentum it can get heading into the conference tourney. Neither team has much hope for the Big Dance unless they are to win the SEC and receive an automatic bid.
The Gamecocks have not been playing their best basketball as of late, but they will need everything they have to beat Mississippi State and slow the Bulldogs’ momentum after their huge win. If South Carolina can keep Jalen Steele and Craig Sword in check, slow the tempo, limit turnovers, and win the battle of the boards, they are capable of winning this game. But after looking at the way this season has played out, I won’t even begin to predict the final score of this game.
Projected Starting Lineups:
South Carolina Mississippi State
G Bruce Ellington #23 G Trivante Bloodman #4
G Eric Smith #5 G Craig Sword #32
F Michael Carrera #24 G Fred Thomas #1
F Lakeem Jackson #30 F Colin Borchert #3
F Mindaugas Kacinas #25 F Gavin Ware #20
Photo Credit: Bleacher Report