COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – No. 3/2 South Carolina knocked down 10 3-pointers and held its third-straight opponent to under 50 points on the way to a 75-39 win on Sunday’s regular-season finale against LSU at Colonial Life Arena. Guard Tiffany Mitchell, one of five seniors recognized prior to the contest, netted a season-high 24 points for the Gamecocks, who finished a perfect 16-0 in SEC play and moved to 28-1 overall with the victory.
Fueled by a barrage of 3-pointers, South Carolina took control of the contest in the second quarter, closing the period on a 24-8 run to grab a 38-19 halftime lead. The Gamecocks went 4-of-5 from behind the arc during the stretch, and another scoring run to end the third period gave them a 31-point cushion heading into the final period. Mitchell’s 24 points led all scorers and fell one short of a career high for the guard, who boasts five 20-point games on the season. Sophomore forward A’ja Wilson added 14 points, including 12 in the first half, and junior center Alaina Coates chipped in 10.
South Carolina, which started all five of its seniors against the Lady Tigers, took a 3-2 lead following a 3-pointer from Mitchell, and the advantage was pushed to 6-4 after a pair of free throws from Wilson midway through the period. Wilson’s first field goal of the afternoon made it 8-4 before a three-point play by the sophomore extended the lead to 11-4 on South Carolina’s next trip down the floor. A 4-0 LSU run brought the Lady Tigers to within three of the lead, but the Gamecocks quickly grabbed momentum back after guard Bianca Cuevas drilled a 3-pointer with seconds remaining in the quarter. LSU missed seven of its final eight field goal attempts of the period, and South Carolina headed to the first break leading, 14-8.
Wilson continued to cause problems for the LSU defense in the second quarter, as the sophomore tallied two more baskets down low to make it 19-11 with 6:11 left in the first half. Mitchell took the reins of South Carolina’s offense over the next few minutes, notching a pair of three-point plays to give the Gamecocks their largest lead of the game at 25-13. Shots from behind the arc continued to fall for South Carolina, which saw its advantage grow to 31-15 after 3-pointers from Mitchell and Roy. The Gamecocks scored 13 of the quarter’s last 17 points and converted each of their final seven field goals of the period to build a commanding 38-19 lead at halftime. Mitchell and Wilson combined for 27 first-half points, while LSU was held to just five field goals over the opening 20 minutes.
Field goals in the paint from Wilson and Coates pushed the advantage to 42-21 out of the break, and a layup by Mitchell in transition made it 46-23 halfway through the third quarter. Poor shooting continued to plague LSU in the second half, as the Lady Tigers missed 13 of their 15 third-quarter shot attempts and registered just two points over the final 8:13 of the period. South Carolina closed the quarter on a 14-2 run to grab a 56-25 lead with 10 minutes left to play.
Two more 3-pointers from Roy paced the Gamecocks in the final period and helped them establish a 64-29 lead with 7:22 left to play. Mitchell’s fourth field goal from behind the arc made it 69-36, and the senior guard received a loud standing ovation after checking out of the game less than a minute later. South Carolina maintained a 30-point advantage the rest of the way and finished the game on a 6-0 run.
Guard Rina Hill tallied a team-high 16 points for LSU, while forward Alexis Hyder marked the other Lady Tiger in double figures, as she finished with 10. South Carolina held a 22-14 advantage in points in the paint and scored 27 points off 20 LSU turnovers.
Head Coach Dawn Staley
On finishing undefeated in SEC play and sending the seniors out on a high note
“It’s something our seniors wanted to do. It’s a tribute to what they mean to the program, and this accomplishment caps it off. It is something to be very proud of, and I’m glad it was them to do it.”
South Carolina’s 24-8 run to end the second quarter turned a three-point advantage into a 19-point halftime cushion at 38-19.
The Gamecocks sported a 38-2 advantage in bench points in Sunday’s win. Three players came off the bench to finish the contest with multiple field goals.
• South Carolina is just the second school in SEC history to finish 16-0 in league play. The Gamecocks have increased their SEC win total over the previous season every year under head coach Dawn Staley.
• Sunday marked the third time this season that the Gamecocks finished a game with double-digit 3-pointers. All three times came in conference play.
• The Gamecocks have held each of their last three opponents to under 50 points and less than 30 percent shooting.
• South Carolina’s 27 points off turnovers were its most since its SEC-opener against Arkansas (Jan. 3). The Gamecocks totaled at least 20 points off giveaways five times in league action this season.
South Carolina opens play at the 2016 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament in the quarterfinals of the event on Fri., March 4, at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. The top-seeded Gamecocks will face the winner of Thursday’s contest between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in a game that will tip off at noon on the SEC Network.