Jan 22, 2003
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi State ended its three-game losing streak but is still having a hard time holding on to the basketball.
Mario Austin scored 18 points to help the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs overcome another sloppy performance and beat cold-shooting South Carolina 64-48 on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs (11-4, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) committed 20 turnovers and showed only glimpses of the team that was not long ago ranked No. 7 in the country.
“I would call it a step forward because we got a win,” said Bulldogs guard Timmy Bowers, who scored 15 points. “It was a little shaky. But if we lost we’d be 0-4 and that would be a big hole to dig out of.”
The Gamecocks (7-8, 1-4) lost their fourth straight with their worst offensive game of the season.
“We proved to be the right medicine for them tonight,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said.
South Carolina shot a season-low 27.5 percent, hitting just about every part of the backboard with their wayward shots. They had more turnovers (20) than field goals (14) and finished with a season low in points.
“We have offensive problems galore,” Odom said.
Kendrell Brown led South Carolina with 15 points, and Tony Kitchings and Chuck Eidson each had 12.
The Bulldogs weren’t a whole lot better, except for Austin, who was 9-for-13 from the field, but they still managed to avoid their first 0-4 SEC start in 16 years.
Michael Ignerski had 10 points and nine rebounds and reserve Winsome Frazier added 11 points for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State had a week off to stew over its three-game slide, during which it averaged 17 turnovers.
The time off apparently didn’t help the Bulldogs correct their giveaway problems. They came out flat, making careless passes and drawing several offensive fouls. They averaged a turnover a minute through the first 11 minutes.
Worst of all, they couldn’t get the ball through South Carolina’s packed-in zone to Austin. He went 13 minutes before taking his first shot.
“It’s not frustrating,” Austin said. “I’ve had zones played against me my whole life.”
The Gamecocks couldn’t capitalize on Mississippi State’s shoddy ballhandling because their shooting was just as bad.
South Carolina was 5-for-23 in the first half (22 percent) and committed 12 turnovers.
Finally, with just under seven minutes left in the first half and the Bulldogs leading 13-10, Austin got involved with a putback.
“You’ve got to find creases and ways to score,” Austin said.
Once he got going, the Gamecocks couldn’t stop him.
The 6-foot-9 junior scored eight straight points in about 90 seconds to make it 21-10.
He finished the half with 10 points, then started the second half with Mississippi State’s first two baskets. The second started an 11-0 run – highlighted by consecutive 3-pointers by Bowers and Ignerski – that made it 44-24 with about 13 minutes left.
And the Gamecocks couldn’t hit enough shots to mount rally.
“When you don’t make a shot, you’re defense can only hold you over for so long,” Odom said.