No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 14 South Carolina tip off today at 2 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2 at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, in what is the regular season finale for each team. The Bulldogs (26-2, 14-1) and Gamecocks (21-7, 13-2) are first and second, respectively, in the SEC standings. MSU is poised to clinch its second-straight regular-season title outright while USC can spoil that party by claiming a share with a win.
South Carolina’s projected starting lineup
G — Tyasha Harris (Jr.): 5-10; 10.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists per game
G — Doniyah Cliney (Sr.): 6-0; 4.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1 assist per game
G — Bianca Cuevas-Moore (RS-Sr.): 5-6; 8.9 points, 1.1 rebounds, 0.6 assists per game
F — Mikiah Herbert Harrigan (Jr.): 6-2; 9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.5 assists per game
F — Alexis Jennings (Sr.): 6-3; 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 0.4 assists per game
Mississippi State’s projected starting lineup
G — Jordan Danberry (Sr.): 5-8; 13.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists per game
G — Jazzmun Holmes (Sr.): 5-8; 7.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game
G — Andra Espinoza-Hunter (So.): 5-11; 8.4 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists per game
F — Anriel Howard (Gr.): 5-11; 16 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists per game
C — Teaira McCowan (Sr.): 6-7; 17.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists per game
When South Carolina has the ball
Expect any one of the Gamecocks to be able to slice up an opposing defense for a big game. Their individual averages may not jump off the stat sheet, but South Carolina wouldn’t be a top-15 program with a shot at a conference title without them. Jennings has shown she can score north of 20 points. Herbert Harrigan once reeled off eight games in a row of at least 10 points. And Harris has the ability to score 24 points one night, grab eight rebounds on another and dish out 14 assists on a third.
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It’s why South Carolina is second in the SEC with an average of 75.7 points per game on a 43.6 field goal percentage. The Gamecocks may only be hitting 33.3 percent of their threes, but they’re one of the better teams in the conference at getting to the free-throw line and knocking those chances down. USC will need some help from its defense though, as the last time these two sides met the Gamecocks scored close to their season average but allowed nearly 90 points.
When Mississippi State has the ball
Expect points, points and more points. The Bulldogs score by far the most points in the SEC at 86.9 points per game and are among the top five programs in the nation at that stat, too. Mississippi State has three players who average more than 13 points per game. The Bulldogs shoot close to 50 percent from the field at a 49.2-percent clip, and grab almost as many offensive rebounds per game as opponents do defensive boards.
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McCowan is the star with her double-double average. She even went for 26 points and 24 rebounds (12 offensive, 12 defensive) in January when the Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks. But like South Carolina, Mississippi State has players in Danberry, Holmes and others who can make opponents pay if they don’t respect their skillsets. Holmes leads the team in assists. Howard and Danberry actually have more shots taken than McCowan. Take your pick on who to stop.