COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 2/2 South Carolina notched its third win over a ranked opponent this season, moving past No. 14/13 Duke, 66-55, behind a career-high 28 points from sophomore A’ja Wilson on Sunday at the Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina’s defense clamped down in crutch time, forcing three Duke turnovers throughout the game’s final five minutes to launch a 15-5 run that decided the game.
Wilson scored 10 of her 28 points in the third quarter as the Gamecocks moved to 8-0 on the season. She also added 11 rebounds and chipped in three blocks on the way to her fifth double-double of the season. The forward pushed her team-best scoring average to 18.4 following Sunday’s result.
The Gamecocks jumped out to an 8-2 lead thanks to a strong defensive display in the early going. Duke (6-2) missed six of its first seven field goal attempts, while South Carolina took advantage of its size on the offensive end, scoring its first six points in the paint. Alaina Coates tallied two field goals during that stretch before Wilson found her stroke midway through the period, connecting on two jumpers from the top of the free throw lone. Coates and Wilson each finished with six points in the opening 10 minutes, and the Gamecocks and Blue Devils headed to the second period tied at 14.
Coates continued to make Duke pay down low in the second quarter, as she added two more field goals and entered the break with a game-high 10 points to go along with four rebounds. Her fifth field goal of the afternoon put the junior in double-figures and gave the Gamecocks a 20-16 advantage with 7:20 left in the period.
The Blue Devils hung tough and evened the game at 20 following a layup by forward Oderah Chidom, but 3-pointers from Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Roy late in the quarter pushed the South Carolina lead back to six at 28-22. The Gamecocks scored 10 of the first half’s final 16 points, as they took a 30-26 lead into the locker room.
South Carolina’s offense struggled early in the second half, and Duke took its first lead of the game at 32-30 following a pair of free throws by guard Azura Stevens. The Gamecocks missed their first nine field goal attempts of the third period, and a free throw by Wilson marked the only point for them through the first five minutes of the half.
Seven straight points from Wilson sparked the Gamecocks and quickly changed the tune of the game down the stretch in the third quarter. A three-point play by the Hopkins, S.C., native cut the Duke lead to two, 36-34, and another free throw from Wilson made it 38-37 Blue Devils with 2:23 to go in the period. The sophomore scored nine of South Carolina’s final 11 points of the quarter, and the Gamecocks headed into the final period with a 46-42 lead.
Wilson’s seventh field goal of the game gave South Carolina a six-point lead in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but the Blue Devils once again responded, going on a 6-0 run to pull even. After a Chidom layup put the Blue Devils up one at 50-49, both teams misfired on their next possession and turned it over on the ensuing trip down the court. South Carolina senior Khadijah Sessions battled Angela Salvadores for the loose ball and was fouled by the Duke freshman. In the scuffle, Salvadores was charged with a technical foul. The Gamecocks sent Mitchell to the line, hitting both, and Sessions delivered on one of her two attempts afterward to put the Gamecocks up 52-50 with 4:52 to play.
From there, the Gamecocks shut down the Duke offense with Coates and Wilson dominating the paint and the glass. The Blue Devils went to their All-American down the stretch, but Stevens found no room against Wilson, who picked up a block and a steal along with her six points during the 15-5 run that closed the game.
Coates (16) and Mitchell (12) marked the other Gamecocks in double-figures for South Carolina, which shot 42.1 percent from the floor. Guard Kyra Lambert led the Blue Devils with 16 points, while Stevens (11 points, 9 rebounds) finished one board short of a double-double.