COLUMBIA, S.C. – Behind a defense that did not allow a field goal until the 2:16 mark of the first quarter, No. 2/2 South Carolina stormed to an 83-58 win over No. 20/- Missouri Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena, the Gamecocks’ fourth over a ranked opponent this season. The defensive effort, which held the Tigers (14-2, 1-2 SEC) to just five points in the opening quarter, allowed the Gamecocks (15-0, 3-0 SEC) to open a 35-17 halftime lead, and a 17-5 third-quarter surge put the game away. Tiffany Mitchell led South Carolina with 19 points, and Alaina Coates posted her third-straight double-double after netting her 1,000th career point in the game’s opening 30 seconds.
Physical play and defense dominated the opening quarter, during which South Carolina and Missouri combined for 16 fouls and only 22 points. The Gamecock defense, led by the first of sophomore forward A’ja Wilson’s six blocks, keyed an 11-0 run to start the game and held a Missouri team averaging over 76 points per game scoreless until the 4:14 mark of the first quarter when Cierra Porter hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line. Missouri’s five first quarter points were the fewest the Gamecocks have allowed in a single quarter this season, while six different Gamecocks found the scoring column for a 17-5 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
Continued defensive pressure and relentlessness on the offensive glass extended the Gamecocks lead to 21 points with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter. The Gamecocks made good headway at the free throw line in the period, hitting 6-of-7 from the stripe, while the defense harassed the Tigers into seven turnovers after creating five in the first quarter. Missouri did not score on consecutive possessions until the final two minutes of the half, and South Carolina carried a 35-17 lead into halftime.
The Tigers got their offense going in the third quarter, but Coates and Mitchell shut down the surge. With Missouri within 10 points, 39-29, with 6:35 to go in the period, Coates delivered from the right block while being fouled and converted the traditional three-point play. After she collected the defensive rebound on the other end, Tina Roy delivered the outlet pass to Mitchell racing up the court for a layup. Khadijah Sessions drew an offensive foul on the Tigers’ next possession, and Mitchell continued her scoring with a 3-pointer from the left corner. The Gamecock All-American then helped herself to a steal and a transition layup to make it a 48-29 Gamecock lead with 4:39 to play. South Carolina’s run stretched to 17-5 behind free throws, a Roy 3-pointer and a transition layup from Bianca Cuevas.
Leading 56-31 heading into the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks saw the Tigers narrow the gap at the free throw line, netting 12 of their 24 points in the period at the stripe, but it was not enough to overcome South Carolina’s lead.
Wilson rebounded from a tough game at Vanderbilt with one of her best all-around performance of the season, nearly recording a double-double in the first half with nine points and nine rebounds through 20 minutes. She finished the game with 11 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks and two steals.
Coates became the 31st member of the Gamecocks’ 1,000-point club when she converted a three-point play just 30 seconds into the game. She finished the game with 13 points and 12 rebounds, giving the South Carolina multiple double-doubles in a game for the sixth time this season.
South Carolina out-rebounded Missouri 39-37 and outscored the Tigers 34-22 in the paint. The Gamecocks’ 43 free throw attempts and 32 free throws made were both the their highest output of the season.
With Missouri fighting back within 10 points, Tiffany Mitchell scored seven straight points in a 28-second span to launch a 17-5 run that closed the third quarter. From that point, South Carolina’s lead did not fall beneath 16 points.
The Gamecocks held Missouri without a field goal until the 2:16 mark of the first quarter as the Tigers, who averaged 76.6 point per game on 45.6 percent shooting coming into the contest, went 0-for-12 to open the game.
- Missouri’s five points in the first quarter were the fewest the Gamecocks have allowed in any quarter this season.
- South Carolina tallied season highs in both free throw attempts (43) and free throws made (32).
- Junior center Alaina Coates became the 31st player in Gamecock history to score 1,000 career points and the 13th to pair it with at least 700 rebounds, a milestone she also reached in Sunday’s game.
- A’ja Wilson (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Alaina Coates (13 points, 12 rebounds) each recorded a double-double, making it the sixth time this season multiple Gamecocks have posted double-doubles. Wilson and Coates each have eight double-doubles on the season.
- The win is South Carolina’s fourth this season over a nationally ranked opponent with the Gamecocks facing ranked foes in their next two outings and three of their next four as well.
South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley
On guarding Missouri
“[Missouri] isn’t just based on Sophie Cunningham. They have a lot of great pieces. They’re able to just flow and work their offense. They are probably one of the hardest teams in the country to guard. We just couldn’t relax on anybody. We didn’t want anyone to get open looks. We wanted to make them work for every shot that they made and every shot that they took.”
South Carolina travels to No. 10/9 Kentucky for an SEC road contest on Thu., Jan. 14, at 7 p.m., before returning home to host No. 13/10 Texas A&M next Sunday (Jan. 17) at Colonial Life Arena at 1:30 p.m.