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Johnson helps South Carolina hold off Mississippi State, 68-62 in SEC opener
Men's Basketball  . 

Johnson helps South Carolina hold off Mississippi State, 68-62 in SEC opener

Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

Gamecocks win first SEC opener since 2021 COVID season, notch 10th straight home victory dating back to last season

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Meechie Johnson had a clutch steal and hit four free throws in the final seconds to allow South Carolina to hold off Mississippi State 68-62 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams Saturday afternoon.

Johnson scored 15 of his team-high 24 points over the final 11 minutes, hitting 8 of 8 from the free throw line with a key steal and an assist to help hold off the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State never led in the second half but tied the game at 42 on Dashawn Davis‘ jumper with 11:51 to play. The Gamecocks responded with a Collin Murray-Boyles jumper and Johnson hit 2 of 3 from the line and followed up with a 3 in a 9-0 run with just under 10 minutes left.

Josh Hubbard turned a four-point play with 22 seconds left to get the Bulldogs within 64-62. Ta’Lon Cooper drew a foul with :17 left but missed both free throws. D.J. Jeffries pulled in the rebound, but Johnson forced Dashawn Davis to pick up his dribble well behind the 3-point line, then stole the ball and drew a foul with :07 left. His two free throws made it a two-possession game, then he added two more to set the final score.

Johnson hit 6 of 12 from the field, including 3 of 7 from behind the arc, and was 9 of 11 from the line to finish with 24 points. Myles Stute added 15 points. South Carolina (13-1, 1-0) hit 21 of 52 from the field (40.4%) and was 18 of 26 from the line. The Gamecocks had a 35-26 advantage on the boards and scored 16 second-chance points on 15 offensive rebounds.

Mississippi State (11-3, 0-1) was 25 of 52 from the field (48.1%), but hit just 3 of 13 from distance and was 9 of 14 from the line. Tolu Smith and Hubbard both scored 13 points off the bench to lead the Bulldogs. Shakeel Moore had 10 points.

South Carolina plays at Alabama on Tuesday. Mississippi State plays host to No. 5 Tennessee on Wednesday.


  • Junior guard Meechie Johnson led all scorers with 24 points on 50.0 percent shooting (6-for-12) including 9-of-11 from the free throw line. It marks Johnson’s 12th double-figure scoring game this season and his eighth leading the team in points. Johnson nailed the last four free throws of the game with both pairs coming inside the final 7 seconds.


  • Junior guard Myles Stute provided big minutes, scoring 15 points on an efficient 6-of-11 from the floor including three triples. It marks his 10th double figure scoring game this season (team 10-0 when he scores 10+). Stute also grabbed six boards in 29 minutes of action for Carolina.
  • Graduate guard Ta’Lon Cooper led South Carolina with seven dimes to just one turnover. Cooper game into the game ranked seventh nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. He now has six games this season with 5+ assists and 10 games with one or no turnovers.
  • Sophomore guard Zachary Davis and freshman forward Collin Murray-Boyles provided vital minutes off the bench for Carolina. The duo of Davis (9) and Murray-Boyles (8) combined for 17 points on an efficient 6-of-8 from the floor.
  • Carolina is now 8-2 in games where Meechie Johnson scores 20 or more points.
  • The win snaps a three-game skid to the Bulldogs that dates back to the team’s opening game of the 2022 SEC Tournament.
  • In four all-time SEC openers against Mississippi State, Carolina is now 1-3 against the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks improve to 13-20 alll-time in league openers with today’s victory.
  • The last SEC opening win for Carolina was a 78-54 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday, Jan. 6 during the team’s COVID season.
  • The victory today also marks the team’s first 10-game home win streak since the 2015-16 season when the team started the year 13-0 at home. That tied the longest win streak since the 1997-98 team won 13-in-a-row at home.
  • Today marks the sixth 13-1 start in program history (1933-34, 1944-45, 1969-70, 2003-04, 2015-16 and 2023-24).


Carolina (13-1, 1-0 SEC) hits the road for a pair of games next week, first traveling to Alabama (8-5) on Tuesday night. Tip is set for 7 p.m. (ET) on SEC Network. Dave Neal (pxp) and Jon Sundvold (analyst) will be on the call for the broadcast. The Gamecocks are then at Missouri (8-6, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday.