SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (USC SID) – Fueled by 17 points each from juniors A’ja Wilson and Allisha Gray and senior Alaina Coates, No. 3/3 South Carolina posted a convincing 83-59 win over No. 4/4 Louisville in Sunday’s top-five battle at the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Challenge at MassMutual Center. The victory marked the second win over a top-10 opponent this season for the Gamecocks, who moved to 5-0 on the year. Louisville suffered its first loss of the season, dropping to 6-1.
Following a back-and-forth pace for much of the first half, the Gamecocks used a 23-5 run that spanned over the second and third quarters to create separation and pull away from the Cardinals. Carolina freshman forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan sparked the stretch with five points over the final 1:24 of the first half, and the Gamecocks carried that momentum out of the break behind timely baskets from Wilson, Gray and junior guard Kaela Davis early in the third quarter.
Coates totaled 14 rebounds to go along with her 17 points, as the Gamecock center recorded her fourth double-double of the season. Wilson connected on six field goals and went 5-of-6 from the line, while Gray knocked down two 3-pointers and scored 15 of her 17 points in the second half. Davis chipped in 15 points, and Herbert Harrigan marked the other Gamecock in double-figures after she tallied 11 points. Carolina outscored the Cardinals 65-39 over the final three quarters and held Louisville to 38.3 percent shooting.
Davis had the hot hand in the early going, as the junior opened the contest with a pair of field goals and a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks a 7-2 lead. Carolina connected on six of its first seven shot attempts and saw its advantage grow to 13-7 after a steal from junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore led to a layup in transition by Gray. A bulk of Louisville’s points came from beyond the arc in the early going, and back-to-back 3-pointers by the Cardinals knotted the game at 13 midway through the period. Their fourth 3-pointer of the quarter gave them an 18-14 lead before another key defensive play led to points in transition for Carolina. Coates swatted away Louisville forward Sam Fuehring’s attempt down low, and Cuevas-Moore collected the loose ball and found Wilson on the break for the layup to make it 18-16. Wilson’s put-back attempt with 39 seconds left again brought the Gamecocks to within two of the lead, and Carolina headed to the first break trailing 20-18.
The two teams exchanged buckets out of the break before Wilson’s fourth field goal of the afternoon evened the score at 22. Two free throws from Cuevas-Moore gave Carolina a 24-22 advantage, and another jumper by Wilson two minutes later made it 28-25. Louisville ran into foul trouble down the stretch of the first half, and the Gamecocks used multiple trips to the free throw line to extend their advantage. Two foul shots from sophomore guard Doniyah Cliney pushed the lead to 30-25, and a pair of free throws from Herbert Harrigan maintained the Gamecock five-point cushion at 34-29 with 1:24 left in the second period. Carolina’s strong finish to the half was highlighted by another fantastic defensive effort from Coates, who tipped a pass away before saving the ball out of bounds and finding Herbert Harrigan on the break. After collecting the pass, Herbert Harrigan raced down the court and converted a layup while being fouled. She completed the 3-point play, and the Gamecocks headed to the locker room up 37-29. Carolina, which held Louisville to two field goals in the second quarter, ended the half on a 6-0 run.
The Gamecocks grabbed firm control of the game in the early stages of the third quarter, opening the half on a 16-5 run to establish a 53-34 lead. Carolina scored the first bucket of the half when Coates grabbed a loose ball on the floor and alertly found a wide-open Wilson down low for an easy bucket. The Gamecock backcourt picked up the scoring from there, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Davis made it 45-32. Gray converted a 3-point play just over a minute later, and the junior guard’s basket from beyond the arc extended the lead to 51-34. Solid perimeter defense held the Cardinals to just 2-of-9 shooting from the 3-point line in the third period, and Gray’s 3-pointer from the corner gave the Gamecocks a 20-point advantage at 64-44 before the teams headed to the final period.
Gray’s impressive second-half showing continued with a great hustle play early in the fourth quarter. A missed 3-pointer by Carolina freshman guard Tyasha Harris led to a battle for the ball on the ground, and Gray came away with it and converted an uncontested layup to make it 70-46. Carolina’s size inside continued to be a factor, and Coates and Herbert Harrigan carried the offense the rest of the way. Coates converted two layups to extend the lead to 74-48 midway through the quarter, while Herbert Harrigan’s basket down low and two free throws from the freshman stretched the margin to 81-54 with 2:20 left to play. Six of Herbert Harrigan’s 11 points on Sunday came in the final quarter.
Carolina, which outrebounded the Cardinals 46-29, shot 45.0 percent from the floor and boasted a 40-24 advantage in points in the paint. The Gamecocks scored 18 points off 17 Louisville turnovers and tallied 14 fast-break points compared to just 2 for the Cardinals. Both teams struggled from the 3-point line, with each shooting less than 35 percent from beyond the arc.
Senior center Alaina Coates’ steal and acrobatic pass to freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan late in the second quarter set the forward up for a 3-point play that gave the Gamecocks their largest lead of the half. With four steals against the Cardinals, Coates matched a career high for the most in one game.
Carolina attempted 21 more free throws than Louisville and finished the game 24-of-31 from the line. The Cardinals converted seven free throws on their 10 attempts of the afternoon.
- Louisville’s 59 points marked its lowest scoring output of the season. The Cardinals entered Sunday averaging 83.7 points per game.
- Five South Carolina players finished in double-figures for the third-straight game.
- The Gamecocks improved to 17-4 all-time against Louisville with the win. This weekend marked the first meeting between the two since 1991.
- South Carolina has won 35-straight games in the month of November under head coach Dawn Staley. Its last loss in November came on Nov. 20, 2011 against Penn State.
South Carolina continues its challenging early-season slate on Thu., Dec. 1, when it faces No. 14/14 Texas on the road for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Tip-off at the Frank Erwin Center is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, and the game will air on ESPN2.