Rebels fall to South Carolina
March 7, 1998
ATLANTA (AP) _ BJ McKie scored 37 points and Melvin Watson added 27 as No. 15 South Carolina's backcourt duo dominated No. 10 Mississippi in an 87-77 victory Saturday that sent the Gamecocks into the Southeastern Conference championship game for the first time.
The Gamecocks (23-6), who entered the league in the 1991-92 season, will play defending champion and No. 7 Kentucky on Sunday for the title. The Wildcats, who have won five of the last six tournaments, destroyed No. 16 Arkansas 99-74 in the other semifinal Saturday.
Mississippi (21-6) had won eight in a row and beaten South Carolina by 19 points _ 73-54 _ earlier in the season in the only meeting between the two schools.
McKie, a junior, scored 24 of his points in the second half, including 20-of-22 free throws as the Gamecocks converted on 39 of 47 attempts (83 percent).
Mississippi managed to make only 11 of its 22 attempts (50 percent).
McKie didn't attempt a free throw in the opening half when he scored 13 points, including a 3-point basket with 4:13 left before halftime, to put South Carolina ahead to stay at 26-25.
McKie was 8-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-3 3's. Watson was 8-of-16 from the field, 2-of-2 on 3's and 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Both players reached their career scoring highs.
Watson added 13 first-half points as the Gamecocks built their lead to 34-27 at halftime and led by as many as 12 points _ 71-59 _ with 3:07 left into the second half on a McKie basket.
Mississippi never got closer than five points the rest of the way _ the last time at 80-75 on a basket by Sesay with 50.7 seconds to play.
Jason Smith led Mississippi with 20 points, Keith Carter added 15 and leading
scorer Ansu Sesay had 13 before fouling out with 42.2 seconds left.
The Gamecocks, playing without starting forward William
Gallman, who bruised his leg in Friday's 71-60
quarterfinal win over Florida, lost to Kentucky twice
during the regular season, 91-70 and 69-57.
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