GREENVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - For the fifth time in six years, South Carolina is bringing home the SEC Tournament trophy.
The top-ranked Gamecocks left no doubt Sunday in Greenville as they turned back No. 9 Mississippi State 76-62.
“I feel like it was great because we got cut a little bit short last year," said SEC Tournament MVP Mikiah Herbert Harrigan. “That hurt. That really hurt, especially me and Ty. So, just having them not experience that feeling, it’s not a great feeling at all. So, just coming down here and just winning it all, it feels great.”
“This team has really worked hard,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “They do all the right things and, sometimes, when you do all the right things, you don’t end up getting what you deserve, but this team ended up doing that for at least this phase of our season and they put us in a very good spot for a little bit of the break that we have to feel good about ourselves and decompress. Then, at the end of the week, we’ll get back together and focus.”
Both teams struggled early on offense. However, South Carolina (32-1) found its rhythm after the first media timeout. The Gamecocks outscored the Bulldogs 14-4 with 3:31 to go behind the play of Brea Beal. The freshman scored six points in the quarter. However, South Carolina would end the period with an 18-10 advantage.
The Gamecocks continued to surge in the second quarter. Early in the period, the Gamecocks outscored Mississippi State 14-6 with 4:56 left in the half. Carolina kept their proverbial foot on the pedal posting 14 fast-break points in the half.
Things got chippy in the second quarter. With about 3:15 to go, Yemiyah Morris and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan get into it. Both are hit with technical fouls. But South Carolina would finish the half with a 38-22 lead.
South Carolina shot 50% from the floor from the first half while holding the Bulldogs to 22.5%. Zia Cooke was the team’s leading scorer at the half with eight points while Beal, Herbert Harrigan, and Tyasha Harris each posted six points.+
Herbert Harrigan took charge in the third quarter. Following halftime, the senior posted five of Carolina’s first seven points of the period extending the Gamecocks’ lead to 45-26. Herbert Harrigan scored nine points in the quarter. The Gamecocks had an 18-9 scoring run in the final 6:59.
Defensively, Carolina held Mississippi State to just under 34% shooting from the floor. The Bulldogs led for just 15 seconds in the contest.
The Gamecocks finished the contest with 25 fast-break points. Their starters (Cooke, Boston, Harris, Beal, Herbert Harrigan) combined for 51 points and 31 rebounds. Herbert Harrigan led the Gamecocks with 15 points while Beal recorded a double-double consisting of 12 points and 11 rebounds. Harris also had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.
South Carolina extends their winning streak to 26 games and will now wait to see who they will face in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
As a top seed, the Gamecocks would host the first two rounds at Colonial Life Arena.
The selection show for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will take place on March 16. The Gamecocks will hold a FAMdemonium watch party event at Colonial Life Arena on that day.