STARKVILLE, Miss. — Gavin Ware had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead Mississippi State to a 68-58 upset of South Carolina on Saturday.
It was Ware’s eighth double-double of the season and the Bulldogs (13-15, 6-10 SEC) have won four of their last six conference games. Quinndary Weatherspoon and Craig Sword had 14 points apiece for Mississippi State, while Fred Thomas added 12.
South Carolina (23-6, 10-6) was led by Sindarius Thornwell with 12 points. Duane Notice had 10 points and was the only other Gamecock in double digits. The Gamecocks shot just 36.7 percent for the game and had 21 turnovers. Leading scorer Michael Carrera, who entered at 14.8 points, was held to six on 1-of-8 shooting.
“That was a great effort for us and I thought it was our best effort of the year on all ends for 40 minutes,” said Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland. “And it was against a very good team, a very good team. I am really proud of our guys. Defensively, this was our best sustained effort for 40 minutes.”
Mississippi State had a season-high 13 steals and were paced by I.J. Ready with a career-best five. The Bulldogs shot 45.5 percent from the field and made 8 of 22 from 3-point territory.
“I.J. was very dominant on the defensive end pressuring the ball,” added Howland. “He had a run of about three steals in transition where he came in there and ripped it out of guys’ hands that were huge plays leading to baskets. We got transition baskets that came from great defense.”
South Carolina outrebounded the Bulldogs 39-34, including 16-10 on offensive boards. But the Bulldogs outscored South Carolina 15-2 in fast-break points and off the bench, 21-12.
“Ben (Howland) had done a great job with them,” said South Carolina head coach Frank Martin. “They fight and scrap and they’ve been in every game they’ve played this year. They beat us from the punch. We couldn’t run our offense today and couldn’t execute anything.
“Give (Mississippi State) credit and they beat us to the punch. They got on the ball and in the passing lanes and pressured the ball. We tried to call different things but Mississippi State fought and protected their home court.”
Mississippi State held a double-digit lead for much of the contest before South Carolina cut the deficit to eight points in the final seconds. The Bulldogs’ biggest lead of the game was at 48-31 with 12:32 left in the game.
Mississippi State jumped out to an early 8-4 lead after three-pointers from Sword and Travis Daniels. That lead expanded to double digits midway through the first half after five straight points from Sword to produce a 20-9 lead.
The Bulldogs stretched it to as many as 16 points before settling for a 36-25 lead at halftime. Mississippi State was 5 of 12 beyond the arc and shot 55.6 percent overall before intermission.
South Carolina shot just 30 percent in the first half and was outscored 20-12 in the paint.
Mississippi State: The 1996 Final Four team was honored during Saturday’s game with the 20th anniversary of the Bulldogs’ most successful team in school history. The 1996 squad rolled through the NCAA Tournament with wins over Connecticut and Cincinnati before falling to Syracuse in the national semifinal. ... Craig Sword now has 1,452 career points as a Bulldog, 14th in school history. ... Mississippi State’s sixth SEC win matched last year’s win total in the league.
South Carolina: Duane Notice now has 995 career points and is close to becoming the third Gamecocks’ player to reach 1,000 career points this season. Sindarius Thornwell and Michael Carrera have already reached the milestone. In the Gamecocks’ win over Mississippi State in January, Carrera had a career-best 34 points and 15 boards.
Mississippi State travels to Mississippi on Wednesday.
South Carolina hosts Georgia on Thursday.