MSU-South Carolina Pregame: Bulldogs Plan to Bring a ‘Lot of Heart’ to SEC Tournament

Today’s game: MSU (9-21, 4-14 SEC) vs. South Carolina (14-17, 4-14), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network (Dave Neal play-by-play, Jon Sundvold analyst, Shannon Spake reporter), XM 126, Sirius 199.

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NASHVILLE | The 13th-seeded Bulldogs open SEC Tournament play against the No. 12-seeded Gamecocks at Bridgestone Arena, and it’s a rubber match. These two split the regular-season series.

This is a winnable game for MSU, and the young Bulldogs plan on winning, as you can read in my game advance from today’s Journal. As noted in the story, none of the eight State players available tonight have even one second of SEC Tournament experience, but that doesn’t seem to discourage them.

“I think we’re going to have a lot of excitement, going to have a lot of jitters at first,” forward Colin Borchert said, “but that’s going to be good, because we’re going to have a lot of energy, we’re going to come out with a lot of heart. That’s going to be pretty good for all of us.”

South Carolina, which beat MSU 79-72 a week ago in Columbia, is a six-point favorite here tonight. The winner draws No. 5 seed Tennessee at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. If you’re wanting to watch the game, you can click here to view the SEC Network affiliate list.

Be sure you’re following me on Twitter for updates tonight; turns out I’m the only MSU beat writer up here. Now, here’s the scouting report.

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MSU vs. South Carolina

Series: MSU leads, 17-9.

Last meeting: South Carolina, 79-72 (March 6 in Columbia).

Coaches – MSU: Rick Ray, 9-21 (first season); South Carolina: Frank Martin, 131-71 overall (sixth season), 14-17 at South Carolina (first season).

Notes: The teams split the regular-season series, with MSU taking a 56-54 win in Starkville on Jan. 9. … State is 10-10 in SEC Tournament openers the last 20 years. … Brenton Williams scored 38 points for the Gamecocks in last week’s meeting. … The winner of this game plays No. 5 seed Tennessee at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. …  South Carolina is coming off a 74-64 loss at Vanderbilt. 

MSU (9-21, 4-14 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Trivante Bloodman 6-0 So. 5.9 3.1 2.4a

G Craig Sword 6-3 Fr. 10.3 2.9 2.3a

G Fred Thomas 6-5 Fr. 9.3 3.5 32%FG

F Colin Borchert 6-8 Jr. 8.8 4.9 33%3s

C Gavin Ware 6-9 Fr. 8.6 6.4 55%FG

Key reserves

F Roquez Johnson 6-7 So. 9.0 4.5 59%FT

G Tyson Cunningham 6-3 Jr. 2.5 2.4 1.3a

G Baxter Price 5-10 Sr. 0.0 0.3 0.1a

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 60.6

• Scoring defense: 69.9

• Field goal%: 40.1

• Opponent FG%: 43.8

• 3-point%: 28.1

• Opponent 3PT%: 34.2

• Free throw%: 65.9

• Opponent FT%: 69.2

• Rebound margin: –4.1

• Turnover margin: –2.0

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South Carolina (14-17, 4-14 SEC)

Probable starters Pts Rebs Also

G Bruce Ellington 5-9 Jr. 9.7 2.6 2.8a

G Eric Smith 5-11 Jr. 5.6 1.7 3.1a

G Brian Steele 6-5 Fr. 2.3 1.3 40%3s

F Michael Carrera 6-5 Fr. 10.0 7.3 44%FG

F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 Fr. 5.1 3.8 52%FG

Key reserves

G Lakeem Jackson 6-5 Sr. 7.6 6.0 1.8a

G Damien Leonard 6-4 So. 3.9 2.0 77%FTs

F R.J. Slawson 6-8 Jr. 4.3 3.4 46%FG

Key numbers

• Scoring average: 66.3

• Scoring defense: 68.9

• Field goal%: 41.1

• Opponent FG%: 45.1

• 3-point%: 32.8

• Opponent 3PT%: 33.4

• Free throw%: 68.8

• Opponent FT%: 66.1

• Rebound margin: +2.9

• Turnover margin: –1.1

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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