COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 2/2 South Carolina cruised past Ole Miss, 81-62, behind a double-double from center Alaina Coates and 32 combined points from guard Tiffany Mitchell and forward A’ja Wilson on Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. The win gave the Gamecocks their second-straight 20-0 start to a season and improved South Carolina’s mark to 8-0 in SEC play. Coates turned in another efficient scoring night, going 6-of-9 from the floor to finish with 13 points to go along with 14 boards. Wilson chipped in a team-high 17 points, and Mitchell tallied 15 points, including three 3-pointers against the Rebels.
The South Carolina offense ran through Wilson in the early going, as two baskets and a pair of free throws from the sophomore put the Gamecocks up 6-0 two minutes into the contest. Her third field goal of the night made it 11-5, and the advantage grew to 13-5 after Mitchell scored in transition following one of Ole Miss’s six first-quarter turnovers. Mitchell and Wilson provided all of South Carolina’s first 16 points and started the game a combined 6-of-9 from the floor. Guard Tina Roy’s 3-pointer from the corner gave the Gamecocks their first double-digit lead of the game at 19-7 late in the first period, and they headed into the second quarter leading, 24-11. South Carolina attempted 10 more field goals than Ole Miss in the opening quarter after boasting a 13-5 rebound advantage over the first 10 minutes.
South Carolina continued to make Ole Miss pay for turnovers in the second period, and the Rebels’ seventh giveaway of the game led to layup on the break by guard Bianca Cuevas to make it 29-16. After Roy’s second 3-pointer of the night extended the lead to 32-16, the Rebels responded with an 8-0 run to pull within eight points with 3:54 left in the half. South Carolina’s defense tightened up the rest of the period, forcing Ole Miss to miss six of its seven field goal attempts over the final 3:54 of the half. Coates, who grabbed nine first-half boards, came alive down the stretch and scored five of South Carolina’s final seven points of the quarter. All seven of the junior’s points over the first 20 minutes came in the second quarter as the Gamecocks took a 40-26 advantage into the locker room.
South Carolina continued to pressure Ole Miss out of the break, scoring 14 of the second half’s first 18 points to take a 54-30 advantage early in the third quarter. Four players scored during that stretch, including forward Asia Dozier, who capped the scoring outburst with a 3-pointer from the corner with 6:26 to play in the period. South Carolina’s impressive offensive showing in the quarter was highlighted by two pretty plays by Mitchell in the closing stages of the period. With 50 seconds remaining, the senior used her experienced court vision to find Khadijah Sessions for an easy layup, then followed that with a 3-pointer to help give the Gamecocks a commanding 63-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Gamecocks, who held the Rebels to just one 3-pointer in the second half, maintained a 20-point lead in the early stages of the fourth quarter before an 8-0 Ole Miss run cut the deficit to 68-55 with 3:46 left to play. The Rebels didn’t get any closer the rest of the way, and South Carolina closed the game on a high note, tallying 13 of the contest’s final 20 points.
South Carolina boasted a 45-28 rebound advantage and scored 18 points off 14 Ole Miss turnovers, and the Gamecocks handed out 24 assists on 31 made field goals on the night. Ole Miss guard Shandricka Sessom poured in a game-high 26 points for the Rebels, who fell on Thursday despite shooting 48.1 percent from the floor.
Head Coach Dawn Staley
On how South Carolina was able to create offense through its defense early on
“We got a lot of energy from our defense and being able to cause turnovers. We converted in transition, and that was a big part of our game that we’ve been working on. We got out and scored some easy buckets.”
South Carolina put the game out of reach with a 14-4 run out of halftime. The Gamecocks hit all five of their field goal attempts during that stretch.
South Carolina’s 3-point defense continued to shine on Thursday, as the Rebels finished the game 3-of-19 from behind the arc.
- Senior guard Tina Roy matched a career high with three steals against the Rebels. She entered Thursday’s game with six steals on the season.
- Guard Khadijah Sessions and forward Asia Dozier both finished with a game-high five assists. The two lead the Gamecocks with three games of at least five assists this season.
- Ole Miss’ 15.8 shooting percentage from the 3-point line was its second-lowest mark of the season.
- Center Alaina Coates’ 14 rebounds were the most for the junior in an SEC game this season. She has averaged 11.1 rebounds against conference opponents.
The Gamecocks return to action on Sun., Jan 31, when they face No. 10/10 Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. The contest, which can be seen on ESPN2, gets underway at 6 p.m. (ET).