Mississippi State beats South Carolina

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

STARKVILLE (AP) — Rick Stansbury didn’t have to tell his Mississippi State team that Wednesday night’s game against South Carolina was a must-win.

After two consecutive conference losses, they knew.

“We’re a young team fighting for our lives,” Stansbury said. “It was just about which team could find the grit and energy and which team wanted it the most.”

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Mississippi State found its grit and outlasted the Gamecocks for a 75-70 victory.

Ravern Johnson, the nation’s leading 3-point shooter, scored 20 points for the Bulldogs (17-9, 7-4 Southeastern Conference) after going 7-for-26 from the field and 2-for-15 from beyond the arc his last three games.

Against South Carolina, Johnson was 7 of 17 from the field and 4 of 10 from beyond the arc.

“They don’t run a defense where they just have one guy focusing on me,” Johnson said. “So I was able to get some open looks and some shots in transition. It was a big confidence booster.”

The Gamecocks (18-6, 7-4) led 37-33 at the half, but Mississippi State opened the half on a 13-2 run and led for most of the half.

”We did a really poor job in the second half of finding guys,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “We let them get comfortable in the second half and get a few in transition. It’s the difference in the game.”

South Carolina missed all six of its first-half 3-pointers and its first seven field goals in the second half, but the Gamecocks responded by hitting five of their next nine to stay in the game.

Tied at 65 with 2:15 left, Barry Stewart hit two free throws to give the Bulldogs the lead. After a Gamecocks turnover, Phil Turner hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to secure the victory.

“Sometimes you just know, and after that everyone just kind of exhaled,” Turner said. “That was the nail in the coffin.”

Turner had 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds and six steals.

“He’s sure not the strongest guy and he’s sure not the biggest guy, but that’s the kind of things he can bring you,” Stansbury said.

Dee Bost hit seven free throws and finished with 14 points and five assists. Barry Stewart chipped in with 10 points.

The Bulldogs outrebounded the Gamecocks 45-42 and shot 37.9 percent from the field. Mississippi State hit 7 of 9 3-pointers in the second half, and South Carolina’s 16 turnovers led to 20 points.

“The team that makes those plays deserves to win,” Horn said. “We didn’t deserve to win.”

Devan Downey led the Gamecocks with 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting.

“We got out-scrapped and out-rebounded,” Downey said. “Tonight they were the better team. They wanted it more.”

Zam Fredrick, Brandis Raley-Ross and Dominique Archie each scored 11 points and Mike Holmes chipped in 10. Archie also had nine rebounds.