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USC women ousted in SEC tourney

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. | South Carolina began the game with an 18-point run, seemingly turning this Southeastern Conference tournament game into a rout.

Mississippi State answered with a 19-2 charge of its own — and suddenly the Gamecocks were in trouble.

Alexis Rack scored 12 points, and Mississippi State recovered after going scoreless for the first 10 minutes to beat South Carolina 49-39 Thursday on the opening night of the SEC women's tournament.

"We surely dug a hole, but we kept digging to get out of it," Mississippi State coach Sharon Fanning said.

The Lady Bulldogs (22-8) trailed 18-0 after an atrocious start in which they missed their first 17 shots, but they erased almost all of that deficit in the first half. Mississippi State cut South Carolina's lead to one at 20-19. The Gamecocks led 26-22 at halftime.

"To come out and score 18 points ... was kind of a foreign thing for us. We had people scoring for us who didn't score a lot for us during the year," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "We just didn't have enough bodies to sustain. We lost the game off of rebounding to be quite honest."

Mississippi State finished with 16 offensive rebounds, and the Lady Bulldogs didn't give up when things were going so badly early on.

"Just get a stop and score," Rack said.

The sixth-seeded Lady Bulldogs took the lead early in the second half, but 11th-seeded South Carolina (10-18) wouldn't go away quietly. The Gamecocks led 38-36 before Mississippi State scored six straight points to take the lead for good.

Jewel May and Lakeisha Sutton led South Carolina with nine points each.

Mississippi State shot 32 percent from the field. South Carolina shot 30 percent, including 4-of-23 in the second half. The teams combined for 42 turnovers.

Mississippi State faces third-seeded LSU on Friday night.