FINAL: MSU 56, South Carolina 54

Recapping MSU’s 56-54 win over South Carolina on Wednesday night at Humphrey Coliseum.

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Video above is of, from right, Sword, Bloodman, Steele and Johnson.

The buzz: First-year coach Rick Ray won his SEC debut thanks to some gritty, clutch play down the stretch from his young and banged-up team. The Bulldogs (6-7, 1-0 SEC) overcame a six-point deficit in the final five minutes, holding South Carolina (10-4, 0-1) scoreless for a stretch of 4 minutes, 18 seconds. MSU took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by freshman Craig Sword with 41.8 seconds left, and he extended it to a four-point edge with a steal and dunk with 26 seconds left.

Turning point: SC led 50-44 with 5:33 to go before it went cold. Four different Bulldogs scored during an 8-0 spurt, with Fred Thomas‘ layup giving State a  52-50 lead with 3:22 to go.

MVP: Sword, who was banged up and noticeably limping the entire second half, turned in a gutsy effort and led the team with 18 points. He scored half of those over the game’s final 10:17.

• MSU leaders: Sword 18 points (6-11 FGs, 0-1 3FGs, 6-8 FTs), 7 turnovers, 2 assists, 2 steals; Roquez Johnson 14 points (3-3 FGs, 8-10 FTs), 3 rebounds; Colin Borchert 8 points (3-8 FGs, 0-1 3FGs, 2-2 FTs), 6 rebounds, 4 blocks; Thomas 8 points (4-11 FGs, 0-4 3FGs, 0-2 FTs).

• SC leaders: Brian Richardson 20 points (7-19 FGs, 5-11 3FGs, 1-2 FTs), 8 rebounds; Bruce Ellington 11 points (4-7 FGs, 3-6 3FGs).

• Key stats: MSU shot 38.8 percent overall but 47.7 percent in the second half. … SC shot 39.2 percent overall. … MSU missed all 10 of its 3-point attempts. … SC committed 24 turnovers, MSU 17. … State scored 28 points off turnovers. … SC won the rebounding battle, 38-29.

Highlight reel: Johnson tied the game at 50-50 with a nice low-post move, then Tyson Cunningham stole the inbounds pass, leading to Thomas making a go-ahead layup with 3:22 to go.

• Quotable: “The thing that I’m so happy about for our guys is they’ve been playing really hard in practice and competing and trying to do the things we’ve been telling them is the right way to about playing basketball. For them to start seeing some success on the court, because of how hard we go in practice, it’s good for our team because they now understand that if they play this hard and do things the right way, you’ve got a chance to win ball games.” – Ray

Bottom line: MSU is a scrappy defensive-minded team, and that’s how it’s going to have to win games. It showed a lot of poise in the final five minutes for such a young team, and it did a good job of turning defense into offense – just what Ray preaches. The Bulldogs have won two games in a row for the first time this season.

Up next: MSU visits Georgia for a 12:30 p.m. tipoff Saturday on the SEC Network.

I am the online content coordinator for DJournal.com. Previously at the Journal, I covered Mississippi State athletics (2008-13), high schools (2004-08), and was on the copy desk (2002-04). I'm working on a recipe for bacon-flavored coffee, which would solve all the world's problems.

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  • MidTennDog

    It’s hard to wrap my head around the stats. USC made 8 3-pointers, State 0. USC outrebounded State by 9. Steele & Ware, arguably State’s two best players, combined for 6 points. Steals and MANY more free throw attempts & makes made the difference. Surprising to think State could have won this game in double digits if they had just an average night from the arc. It’s great to see Sword and Johnson playing well, along with Borchert. If they, Steele and Ware can get it going all in the same night, they’re going to surprise someone this year.

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