Defense, Balanced Offense Propel Gamecocks Past Vanderbilt

Feb. 16, 2017

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Gamecock Stat Leaders

Points: Alaina Coates, Kaela Davis (15)

Rebounds: A'ja Wilson (8)

Assists: Allisha Gray (5)

Steals: A'ja Wilson (5)

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A strong defensive effort paired with a balanced offense carried No. 6/5 South Carolina to an 82-51 victory over Vanderbilt Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. Junior guard Kaela Davis and senior center Alaina Coates led all scorers with 15 points for a Gamecock team that forced 20 turnovers and held the Commodores to 22.6 percent shooting, the lowest for a Carolina opponent in league action this season. The Gamecocks improved to 22-3 overall and 12-1 in SEC play with the win, while Vanderbilt dropped to 12-14 and 2-11 in conference action.

Davis scored 13 of her 15 points in the first half and added five rebounds and three assists in the victory. Freshman forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan tallied an SEC career-best 12 points after totaling five field goals. Junior guard Allisha Gray led the Gamecocks with five assists to go along with 11 points, while Coates chipped in seven rebounds to go with her 15 points. A'ja Wilson enjoyed a productive night on both ends of the court, boasting 10 points and a career-high five steals. Vanderbilt was held to single digits in the first and fourth periods, and the Commodores missed 16 of their final 17 shots of the game.

A multitude of players connected from the field to help Carolina jump out to a 9-3 in the opening stages of Thursday's contest. Four Gamecocks registered baskets during the stretch, and the advantage grew to 12-3 when Davis converted a three-point play with just over six minutes left in the first period. Wilson's layup on Carolina's next trip down the floor made it a 10-0 Gamecock run and pushed the lead to double-digits at 14-3. Defense produced the next four points for the Gamecocks, as a steal by Gray led to a layup in transition before freshman guard Tyasha Harris took the ball away 21 seconds later and raced down the court for a layup that was cleaned up by Wilson. The forward's put-back made it 18-3 with just under four minutes remaining in the period for a Gamecock squad that scored 12 points off nine first-quarter Commodore turnovers. Vanderbilt shot just 2-of-10 in the opening period, and Carolina took a 23-6 lead into the first break following layups from Coates and Wilson late in the quarter. Wilson stuffed the stat sheet in the first period with eight points, six boards, three steals and a block.

Carolina worked the ball down low at the start of the second quarter, and jumpers inside from Coates and Herbert Harrigan put the Gamecocks in front 27-11 with 8:30 to play in the first half. Davis began to find her stroke down the stretch of the second quarter, starting with a jumper from straightway that made it 29-17 with just over five minutes to play in the period. A 3-pointer from Davis put her in double figures and stretched the lead to 36-17 before the junior used a pump fake to free herself for a layup on the right block. She was fouled on the play, and her ensuing free throw gave Carolina a 42-21 cushion with 1:27 to go in the period. Davis capped off her impressive offensive stretch with a beautiful look inside to Herbert Harrigan to set the freshman up for an easy layup that established a 46-25 Gamecock lead just before halftime.

Davis, one of eight Gamecocks to net a field goal in the opening 20 minutes, tallied eight of her 13 first-half points in the second quarter, and Carolina headed to the locker room with a 20-point advantage at 46-26. The Gamecock defense stayed tough throughout the half, and Vanderbilt was held without a field goal over the final 2:41 of the second period.

Davis remained a factor on the offensive end in the early stages of the second half. Her jumper from the right block off a nice pass from Coates made it 48-28, and she slipped another great pass inside to force a Vanderbilt foul that put Wilson on the line. Wilson knocked in both free throws to keep it a 20-point game at 50-30 with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter before good movement on the offensive side of the ball led to a trio of layups for Gray. Her third basket during the stretch came off a well-designed in-bounds play and extended the advantage to 58-33 with 4:27 remaining in the period. Carolina's backcourt continued to provide the points when a steal from Wilson set up Bianca Cuevas-Moore for an acrobatic layup on the break that put the Gamecocks ahead 60-33. A pair of free throws from Gray with two minutes left in the quarter marked Carolina's final points of the period, and the Gamecocks headed to the final break leading 62-42. The Gamecock backcourt accounted for 14 of the team's 16 points in the period, with Gray scoring eight points over the 10-minute stretch.

Coates became the fourth Gamecock to reach double figures when she connected on two free throws that gave Carolina a 66-42 advantage early in the fourth quarter. The senior's first field goal of the period produced the largest lead of the night at 71-42, and she tallied another basket when Cuevas-Moore zipped a pass inside to set her up for a layup that made it 73-42 with 6:12 left to play. Herbert Harrigan paced Carolina the rest of the way with eight points over the final five minutes to go with two fourth-quarter blocks. Her final bucket put her in double figures, and the Gamecocks maintained at least a 30-point lead for the remainder of the contest.

Carolina shot 47.8 percent from the floor Thursday and held a 50-10 advantage in points in the paint. The Gamecocks recorded seven of the game's eight blocks, with Coates and Herbert Harrigan recording multiple swats.

QUOTABLE

Head Coach Dawn Staley
On Carolina being able to continue to play with a balance on offense moving forward
"It's a process, and we're still figuring out what works. We have a versatile roster, so we can play a lot of different ways out there. We chose to play a certain way against UConn, and we chose to play a certain way against Vanderbilt. Obviously offensively we want to continue to do some of the things that creates that balance out there on the floor."

GAMECHANGER

Carolina quickly established control and built a 17-point lead less than seven minutes into the contest following its 16-0 first-quarter run. Five Gamecocks knocked down a field goal during the stretch.

KEY STAT

Defense led to offense for the Gamecocks throughout the night with Carolina tallying 24 points off 20 Vanderbilt turnovers. Thursday marked the fifth time Carolina has forced at least 20 giveaways in a game this season.

NOTABLES

  • The Gamecocks have held an opponent to less than 25.0 percent shooting three times this season.
  • Thursday was the second time Carolina totaled at least 50 points in the paint in SEC play this year.
  • The Commodores shot 22.2 percent (4-of-18) from beyond the arc. Vanderbilt entered Thursday's contest ranked first in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage and 3s made per game.
  • Vanderbilt's 6.3 percent shooting (1-of-16) over the final 10 minutes was the lowest single-quarter total for a Gamecock opponent in program history.
  • Carolina has won its last five home contests against the Commodores, boasting double-digit victories in each game.

UP NEXT

Carolina continues SEC action on Sun., Feb. 19, on the road against Missouri. The contest against the Tigers will air on ESPN2, with tipoff set for 3 p.m. ET.