COLUMBIA, S.C. – Junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore tallied 17 second-half points and finished with a career-high 25 to help secure No. 5/5 South Carolina’s 66-63 victory over Georgia Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. Cuevas-Moore carried the offense throughout the game and netted eight points in a back-and-forth final period that was a one-possession game for the final 2:30 of the contest. The Gamecocks moved to 14-1 overall and 4-0 in SEC play following the win, while the Lady Bulldogs dropped to 10-7 and 2-2 in conference action.
Cuevas-Moore added three assists and provided all of Carolina’s bench points, and junior guard Allisha Gray joined her in double figures with 14. Gray scored 11 points after halftime, and freshman guard Tyasha Harris poured in a career-best 11 points in addition to three assists. The Gamecock backcourt accounted for 54 of Carolina’s 66 points and 18 of the team’s 22 field goals. Senior center Alaina Coates turned in another double-double after finishing with 12 points and 11 boards, eight of which came in the first period.
A 7-1 Gamecock run midway through the fourth quarter turned a two-point Georgia lead into a 60-56 Carolina advantage with 2:57 left to play. Harris jump-started the stretch with a 3-pointer from the right corner, and pair of free throws from Gray followed by a jumper by Cuevas-Moore extended the advantage to four. The Lady Bulldogs hung tough and kept it a one-possession game throughout the final couple of minutes. Another clutch jumper from Cuevas-Moore made it 64-60 with 1:20 remaining, but Georgia answered with a basket on its next trip on the floor before coming down with a rebound on Carolina’s ensuing field goal attempt to gain possession trailing 64-62 with nine seconds to play. Following a timeout, Lady Bulldog guard Haley Clark drove to the basket and drew contact to land on the free throw line with five seconds left in the game. She converted the first attempt before missing the second, and Gray was there to collect the rebound and force a Georgia foul. The junior calmly connected on her two free throw attempts to make it 66-63, and Georgia’s last-ditch 3-point attempt from the left corner fell short and handed Carolina the victory.
Throughout the fourth quarter, Cuevas-Moore and Gray did all they could to keep the Gamecocks in front after hot shooting from the Lady Bulldogs again started the period. Georgia connected on four of its first five field goals, but Cuevas-Moore’s nifty layup and jumper from just inside the arc helped the Gamecocks maintain a 51-47 advantage with 7:26 left in the contest. Carolina’s next field goal came on a great hustle play from Gray, who followed her own shot and collected the rebound before laying it in from the right block to make it 53-50 Gamecocks.
Coates’ effort on the glass was the difference in the early going, and the senior racked up eight points and eight rebounds in the opening period. Her put-back bucket midway through the first quarter evened the score at seven and sparked a 15-0 Carolina run to end the period that put the Gamecocks in front 20-7. Her second put-back of the quarter made it 11-7, and a 3-pointer from Cuevas-Moore less than a minute later stretched the advantage to 14-7 with 2:19 to play in the period. Kaela Davis capped off the strong opening 10 minutes for Coates when she fired a one-handed pass to the center for an easy layup in transition to extend the lead to double-digits at 18-7. Cuevas-Moore closed the quarter with her second jumper of the night, and Carolina took a 20-7 advantage into the first break.
The Lady Bulldogs responded with a run of their own to open the second quarter, scoring the first nine points of the period to cut the Gamecock lead to 20-16 with 7:35 left in the first half. A pair of free throws from Harris ended the Carolina offensive drought, and two more points from the charity stripe by Coates made it 24-20 with 3:14 to play in the quarter. Georgia would not go away, and a Lady Bulldog 3-pointer followed by a layup from the right block gave Georgia its first lead of the night at 25-24. The two teams traded points at the line over the next 85 seconds before the Gamecocks grabbed momentum just before the half on a 3-pointer from Gray with 48 seconds left in the quarter. Cuevas-Moore set up the scoring play, finding Gray in the corner for the basket that gave Carolina a 30-27 lead as the two headed to the locker room.
Gray and Cuevas-Moore continued to propel the offense in the beginning of the third period, as the two combined for each of Carolina’s first six points of the quarter. A jumper from Cuevas-Moore made it 33-28 Gamecocks and put the junior in double-figures, and Gray’s layup pressed the cushion to 36-31 with 6:34 left in the quarter. The pair began to get into a rhythm, with the two hooking up for back-to-back layups that gave Carolina a 43-34 advantage. Cuevas-Moore found Gray for an uncontested layup on the break, and Gray returned the favor 37 seconds later when she set up her fellow junior guard for another easy bucket. Cuevas-Moore put an exclamation point on her big third quarter with her second 3-pointer of the night, converting from long range to put Carolina ahead 47-36 with just over two minutes left in the period. The Bronx, N.Y., native and Gray accounted for 14 the Gamecocks’ 17 points in the quarter, and Carolina took a 47-40 lead into the final break.
The Gamecocks shot 16-of-22 from the free throw line and finished the night with six 3-pointers. Harris and junior guard Kaela Davis combined for seven steals for the Carolina, which totaled 14 points off 18 Georgia turnovers.