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Bulldogs' perfect season halted in SEC Tournament final

South Carolina topped Mississippi State 62-51 to earn its fourth-straight SEC Tournament title.

Posted: Mar. 4, 2018 8:28 PM
Updated: Mar. 4, 2018 10:56 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - For the No. 2 Mississippi State basketball team, the magic run ended Sunday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.

For the first time this season, the Bulldogs lost a basketball game.

Second-seeded South Carolina won its fourth-straight Southeastern Conference Tournament championship with a 62-51 win over top-seeded MSU before an MSU-dominated crowd of 8,215.

"Credit to South Carolina, they played very well today," MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. "They came out energized, ready to play. They do a great job of exposing your weaknesses. I thought this would be a game of toughness. I always talk about how tough our team is. I don't like we are out-toughed. I will wear that as a coach; that is on me.

"We were out-rebounded by 15. That's a toughness stat. In the first half, we settled for too many jump shots. They were fairly good looks. In the second half, we played harder, played better. We didn't have enough today. We missed our fair share of layups. We didn't make plays we normally make."

MSU (32-1) will go into the record books with the second-longest win streak in SEC women's basketball history after falling in the conference tournament championship game for a third-straight season.

The Bulldogs appear poised to host in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Pairings for that event will be announced at 6 p.m. CT on Monday, March 12 on ESPN. Coach Vic Schaefer will be carrying MSU to a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

On this day, the Bulldogs could not find their normal rhythm from 3-point range, and early foul trouble for center Teaira McCowan helped allow South Carolina dominate in the paint.

The Gamecocks finished with a plus-15 rebounding advantage and also outscored the Bulldogs 36-20 in the paint. MSU finished 3 of 19 from 3-point range.

The game turned for good when MSU went the final 8:21 of the first half without a field goal.

The Bulldogs were held to five points in the second quarter and trailed 30-19 at halftime.

A layup by Morgan William brought the Bulldogs within five at 33-28 with 5:56 left in the third quarter. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter with the Gamecocks carrying 45-38 lead into the final quarter.

South Carolina would push the lead back out to 14 a couple of times in the early stages of the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs had some steals but missed some shots close to the basket hurting the comeback attempt.

Victoria Vivians finished with 17 points, while William added 10 points for the Bulldogs. McCowan and Vivians each had six rebounds.

Vivians was named to the SEC All-Tournament team after averaging 17.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg in the Bulldogs' three tournament contests. She joins Texas A&M's Chennedy Carter and South Carolina's Tyasha Harris, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and A'Ja Wilson (MVP) on the team.

For the contest, MSU hit 20 of 58 shots from the field (34.5 percent), 3 of 19 shots from 3-point range (15.8 percent) and 8 of 10 shots from the foul line (80.0 percent). South Carolina hit 25 of 49 shots from the field (51.0 percent), 2 of 6 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 10 of 11 shots from the foul line (90.9 percent).

South Carolina held a 38-23 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had nine assists and seven turnovers, while the Gamecocks had 14 assists and 15 turnovers.

South Carolina (26-6) received 16 points from Wilson, 14 points from Harris, 13 points from Herbert Harrigan and 11 points from Bianca Jackson. Wilson had a game-high eight rebounds for the Gamecocks.

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