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South Carolina, Mississippi State to match hot starts

south-carolina,-mississippi-state-to-match-hot-starts

So far, so good for Mississippi State and South Carolina.

Now comes the Southeastern Conference opener Saturday afternoon at Columbia, S.C.

“We’ve tried to prepare our team to win basketball games,” South Carolina coach Lamont Paris said. “I think we set this schedule up to help prepare us for what the SEC is. We’ve had some successes and we’re ready for whatever is next.”

The Gamecocks, winners of five in a row, are 12-1 for just the sixth time in program history. They have a nine-game winning streak at home that will be on the line.

Mississippi State (10-2) rides a five-game winning streak into Saturday’s game.

The Bulldogs received a bonus last weekend with All-SEC center Tolu Smith III making his season debut Sunday vs. Bethune-Cookman and scoring a team-high 16 points in 19 minutes. He has been out since a preseason foot injury.

“It has been a long road,” coach Chris Jans said. “For him to come back and get off to such a great start has to make him feel really good.”

Smith said he had to trust the path to get back on the court.

“I’m excited for my team,” Smith said.

It’s also a process for the Gamecocks and navigating the nonconference games was vital to that.

“It has been a great non-conference for our guys,” Paris said. “As you’re building a program, there are some things you got to do and one that’s have success in the non-conference. So we checked that box off. That represents tremendous growth. We go on to the next one and we have Mississippi State coming in here.”

The Gamecocks have scoring leader Meechie Johnson (17.7 points) back on action after missing one game with a sore knee.

“He has been playing at such a high level and he has been very locked in at what he wants to get accomplished,” Paris said.

Mississippi State swept two games from South Carolina last season.

–Field Level Media

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