Mississippi State guard Fred Thomas scored a career-high 21 points as he led the Bulldogs over the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first round of the SEC tournament.
The Bulldogs and the Gamecocks were both tied in the conference at 4-14, but South Carolina had a much better overall record, at 14-17 compared to 9-21.
Fred Thomas set a career high with 21 points and added five steals as the Bulldogs built an 11-point lead at half and held off the Gamecocks' attempt to rally back in the second frame. Forward Colin Borchert added 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting as four Bulldogs scored in double figures. A tenacious defense frustrated South Carolina all game, as the Bulldogs finished with 12 steals.
Poor shooting doomed the Gamecocks, which used a 7-0 run to pull within four points with under four minutes remaining, but it was as close as they would get. Junior guard Brenton Williams, who normally averages 11.1 points a game, was limited to six points on just 2-of-13 shooting. The Gamecocks couldn't get the outside shot to fall, hitting just six of their 31 shots from behind the arc.
It was the third win in four games for the Bulldogs after losing 13 straight from Jan. 16 to Feb. 27.
The Bulldogs will go on to face the Tennessee Volunteers in the second round of the SEC tournament. The Vols are sitting precariously in the play-in game in Chris Dobbertean's latest bracket for SB Nation, and need to avoid an upset to make it into the NCAA Tournament.
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