South Carolina and Mississippi State have been the class of the SEC for the entire season, so it's only fitting that those two teams are the final two standing at the SEC women's basketball tournament in Greenville.
The Gamecocks used an 89-77 win over Kentucky to advance to the title game while Mississippi State knocked off Texas A&M. The Gamecocks and Lady Bulldogs will battle in the SEC Tournament Championship game on Sunday, March 5, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
The two teams met once in the regular season with South Carolina picking up a 64-61 win in Columbia. The Gamecocks are trying to win their third straight SEC Tournament title while Mississippi State is the up and coming team that's played extremely well all season long.
Sunday's game will be an important one for both teams. South Carolina wants to keep its streak going while the Lady Bulldogs want some revenge after falling short of the Gamecocks in the regular season.
"We're playing for our history, the University of South Carolina's history," head coach Dawn Staley said. "This is a place in which if you have the talent to get here again (and) you have the team that can win it, why not? It's an opportunity for us to continue to solidify us being one of the best teams in this conference."
South Carolina really limited Mississippi State offensively in the regular season meeting as no player scored more than 12 points. With that being said, the Lady Bulldogs are still an extremely dangerous team. Led by guard Victoria Vivians, Mississippi State also has a couple of intimidating post players in Chinwe Okorie and Teaira McCowan.
On the other hand, the Gamecocks will be without one of their star post players in Alaina Coates. The senior missed the quarterfinal win over Georgia before returning against Kentucky. Coates didn't play much, and re-aggravated her ankle late in the contest. She will miss the championship game, which is a tough blow for the Gamecocks. Freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan has played particularly well when Coates isn't on the floor.
South Carolina has dealt with injuries to both Coates and leading scorer A'ja Wilson throughout the season, and have done a good job of pulling out wins anyway.
"We're a resilient group," Staley said. "I think it's led by our coaching staff. We don't fret about who we don't have. We have to continue to move forward with who we have available to us. It doesn't mean that we don't love and care for the injured ones, but when it's such a quick turnaround you have to prepare the ones that are ready. Our players really respond to that."
Tipoff between Mississippi State and South Carolina is scheduled for 3 p.m. and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**