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Mississippi State men’s basketball opens SEC Tournament play against South Carolina

Collin Wilmes

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Mississippi State Athletics

TAMPA, Fla. — The 10th-seeded Mississippi State men’s basketball team (17-14, 8-10 SEC) will open play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday when the Bulldogs take on No. 7 seed South Carolina (18-12, 9-9 SEC) at 5 p.m. CT inside Amalie Arena. The game will air on SEC Network.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 67-64 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. The Bulldogs nearly overcame a 19-point deficit and trimmed the deficit to three points in the closing seconds, but Texas A&M hit four straight free throws to end the Bulldogs’ comeback attempt. Redshirt junior forward Tolu Smith led the team with 18 points and six rebounds. Junior guard Iverson Molinar scored 15 points and dished four assists, while sophomore forward Andersson Garcia added a career-high 14 points to go with six rebounds off the bench.

Entering the tournament, MSU is top three in the SEC in field goal percentage (45.7%), rebounding margin (plus-5.8) and defensive rebounding percentage (74%).

Molinar, an All-SEC first team selection, leads MSU with 17.8 points a game on 46.2% shooting. He is the only Southeastern Conference player to score in double figures in every game his team has played this season. He and Ohio State junior forward E.J. Liddell are the only two players to accomplish that feat this season. Smith and graduate forward Garrison Brooks also score in double figures. Smith is putting up 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, while Brooks is averaging 10.5 points and 6.7 rebounds.

The Gamecocks are coming off an 82-71 loss to then-No. 5 Auburn, the outright SEC regular-season champions, on Saturday.

South Carolina has three players averaging in double figures, which include redshirt junior guard Jermaine Couisnard (12.2), senior guard Erik Stevenson (11.4) and graduate guard James Reese V (10.8). Couisnard comes into the game on a streak of five consecutive games scoring in double figures, with three of those five games being 20-plus points.

Thursday’s meeting will be the 44th meeting between MSU and South Carolina on the hardwood. The Bulldogs leads the all-time series 26-17, but South Carolina beat the Bulldogs 66-56 in the most recent meeting on Feb. 23, 2022. Couisnard scored 22 points in that game.

The winner will play No. 9 Tennessee, the No. 2 seed, in the quarterfinals on Friday at 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network.

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