February 25, 2013 10:37:37 AM
COLUMBIA, S.C. --The Mississippi State University women's basketball team made more strides Sunday afternoon against one of the elite teams in the Southeastern Conference.
However, turnovers continued to plague the Bulldogs and an early deficit proved too much to overcome.
After committing 18 first-half turnovers, MSU settled down, played well but still dropped a 58-43 decision to No. 15 South Carolina in a Southeastern Conference contest played at Colonial Life Arena.
With the victory, USC improved to 22-5 and 10-4 in league play, while completing a two-game sweep of the season series. MSU dropped to 12-15 and 4-10. The Gamecocks also recorded a 60-46 victory in Starkville on Jan. 6.
"We settled down in the second half," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "We had 18 turnovers at halftime, and only four in the second half. Jerica (James) brought a calmness to the team at the point guard, and we didn't turn it over. The matchup was good to us in the second half. I liked our demeanor in the second half."
South Carolina opened strong by scoring the game's first 12 points. The Bulldogs went close to four minutes before Carnecia Williams broke the scoring ice with a basket.
While Darriel Gaynor followed with a 3-pointe for the Bulldogs, MSU would fall down 19-5 with 11:31 left in the opening half. Early struggles from the field, coupled with the turnovers, created the early deficit.
South Carolina would push the lead to 20 at 33-13 with 2:41 left in the half. Gaynor hit another 3 as the Bulldogs trimmed the lead to 36-20 at the intermission.
"(South Carolina) really got after us early and we turned it over," Schaefer said. "Once we settled down, we were fine. We have to have a little more presence at the point, and Jerica really brought that to us in the second half.
James played 24 minutes, with five assists and four turnovers.
In the final half, the Bulldogs came out strong. A 9-2 run to open the half brought the Bulldogs within 38-29 with 14:10 left in the contest.
The Gamecocks scored the next six points to move out of danger. MSU got no closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
MSU was 16 of 44 from the field (36.4 percent), 4 of 10 from 3-point range (40). and 7 of 9 shots from the free-throw line (77.8). South Carolina was 19 of 50 from the field (38), 2 of 8 from the 3-point line (25), and 18 of 30 from the foul line (60).
Martha Alwal led MSU with 13 points and six rebounds.
Aleighsa Welch led South Carolina with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Khadijah Sessions and Elem Ibiam each had 11 points for the Gamecocks.
MSU will play host to the University of Georgia at 7 p.m. Thursday. Gaynor, the Bulldogs' lone senior, will be honored in pregame ceremonies at the Humphrey Coliseum.
n In related news, MSU will play host to its final HailState Hoops Luncheon of the season Wednesday. MSU football offensive coordinator Les Koenning will be the guest speaker.
Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and cost for the luncheon is $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
To sign up or for more information, call 662-325-0198, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to Koenning, Schaefer and members of the MSU women's basketball team will speak and answer questions.