By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Things were supposed to be a little better for Rick Ray during his second season at Mississippi State.
Ray finished 13th in the Southeastern Conference a year ago despite a roster decimated from injuries and attrition.
But the Bulldogs closed out the 2013-14 regular season with a 74-62 loss to South Carolina Saturday, marking the 13th consecutive defeat – matching last year’s skid.
“We’re facing a lot of adversity this year,” said MSU sophomore guard Fred Thomas. “It’s hard to get over that hump. We’re trying and playing hard as you can see but we just can’t get a victory.”
MSU (13-18, 3-15) battled back from a 12-point deficit in the first half and led by eight at the 14:18 mark of the second.
But it would not last long as Gamecock senior Brenton Williams began heating up from the outside.
Williams sparked a 22-4 South Carolina run by hitting five 3-pointers over a 5:23 stretch. Once the Gamecocks regained the lead they would not relinquish it winning for the first time in Humphrey Coliseum since 2007.
“They hit some tough 3’s on us,” Thomas said. “We contested them but they still happened to go in. (Williams) is a good shooter. We defended him well beyond the 3-point line but he still made the shots to put them back into the game.”
Williams with a game-high 27 points including 7 of 14 behind the arc. Sindarius Thornwell added 22 points and Mindaugas Kacinas chipped in 13 as South Carolina finished the regular season at 12-19 overall and 5-13 in the SEC.
The Gamecocks shot 10 of 20 from 3-point range for the game including 7 of 10 in the second half.
State committed 12 turnovers in the opening half but had just two in the second. The Bulldogs were outrebounded 46-27 on the day.
Craig Sword paced Mississippi State with 19 points on 7 of 14 shooting while Thomas had 15 points in 29 minutes off the bench.
As the loser of Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs finished 14th in the league behind South Carolina and face 11th-seeded Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament on Wednesday night in Atlanta.
“When we go play Vanderbilt … we can’t go just to end the season,” Ray said. “To me, the way we play Wednesday night is a direct indication of how things will be for us next season because a lot of these guys will be coming back.”