COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 5/4 South Carolina pulled away from Georgia in the fourth quarter to notch a 62-44 victory over the Lady Bulldogs Thursday night and remain unbeaten in SEC play. Junior forward A’ja Wilson totaled 19 points and 11 rebounds to record her sixth double-double of the season, while junior guard Allisha Gray tallied 11 of her 18 points in the final period. The Gamecocks moved to 18-1 overall and 8-0 in league action with the win, and Georgia dropped to 10-10 and 2-5 in conference play following the loss.
Wilson collected many of her points from the charity stripe and finished the night with nine made free throws. Thursday marked the 10th time she led the Gamecocks in scoring this season, and the Hopkins, S.C., native also chipped in three assists and two blocks in the win. Gray shot 7-of-11 from the floor, while senior center Alaina Coates controlled the glass with a game-high 13 rebounds.
Points came at a premium throughout much of Thursday’s contest, and a Georgia layup cut the Gamecock lead to 37-33 with 7:45 to play. A trio of juniors provided the response for Carolina, which used an 18-5 run over the next five minutes to build a commanding 17-point advantage late in the game. Wilson’s layup made it 39-33, and a jumper by Gray followed by a 3-pointer from guard Kaela Davis pushed the lead to 44-33 with 6:18 remaining. Gray’s hot hand in the period was the difference, as the junior scored Carolina’s next seven points to put the Gamecocks in front 51-38. She capped off her personal 7-0 run with a field goal from the right corner to match a Georgia 3-pointer, and the guard gave Carolina a 55-38 lead with 2:43 left when she netted her fifth basket of the period on a layup. Gray, Wilson and Davis combined to score 22 of the Gamecocks’ 26 fourth-quarter points.
Carolina’s defense put the Gamecocks on the board when a block by Coates left the ball in the hands of junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore, who drove the length of the court and laid it in to cut the Georgia lead to 4-2 with 6:14 left in the first period. Wilson’s layup 47 seconds later evened the scored at four in an opening quarter that featured a defensive battle. The Gamecocks and Lady Bulldogs combined to shoot 4-of-17 to begin the contest, and Georgia committed six first-period turnovers. Carolina’s offense showed signs of life down the stretch of the quarter, and another bucket inside from Wilson followed by sophomore guard Doniyah Cliney’s 3-pointer made it 9-6 Gamecocks with 1:03 to play in the period. The pair of baskets marked the start of a 7-0 run to close the quarter for the Carolina, which held Georgia scoreless for the final 3:27 of the period and took a 11-6 lead into the first break after Cuevas-Moore’s buzzer beater from the right side.
Thursday’s second quarter mirrored the opening period, as both offenses again struggled to get into a rhythm. The two netted just one field goal each in the opening five minutes of the quarter, and it was the speed of Cuevas-Moore that continued to produce points for the Gamecocks. The junior raced into the paint and converted a layup from the left block to put Carolina in front 13-8 midway through the period, and a pair of free throws from Wilson just over two minutes later made it 15-10. A three-point play from the Lady Bulldogs cut the Carolina advantage to 16-13 before Gray found her stroke down the stretch of the half with seven points over the final 1:10 of the quarter. The guard connected on three free throws after being fouled on a shot from beyond the arc, and a jumper from Gray gave the Gamecocks a 21-15 cushion with 39 seconds to play. Her impressive stretch capped off with a jumper from the left side as time expired. The basket sent Carolina into the locker room with a 23-15 lead against a Georgia team that failed to make a 3-pointer over the first 20 minutes. Gray and Cuevas-Moore combined for 13 first-half points, while Coates made her presence felt on the glass with 10 boards in the opening two quarters to go along with three blocks.
Gamecock freshman guard Araion Bradshaw began the second half in place of Harris and knocked down a 3-pointer from the right side to extend Carolina’s lead to 26-17 less than two minutes into the third quarter. The advantage grew to double-digits at 31-19 on another field goal from beyond the arc when Davis connected on her first 3-pointer of the night, and Wilson’s third free throw of the quarter made it 32-19 with 6:12 to play in the period. Georgia remained in striking distance, and a jumper from the right side and bucket down low cut the Gamecock advantage to 35-26. The Lady Bulldogs inched closer to the lead on another layup to make it 35-28 before Wilson knocked down another shot from the charity stripe. The forward scored seven of Carolina’s 13 third-quarter points, and the Gamecocks took a 36-30 advantage into the fourth period.
The teams managed just one free throw apiece over the first two minutes of the final quarter before a three-point play by the Lady Bulldogs made it a four-point game at 37-33 with 7:45 remaining in the contest. Georgia could not get any closer to the lead the rest of the way following the Gamecocks’ pivotal 18-5 run that put them in control.
Carolina held Georgia to just one 3-pointer for the night and boasted a 45-38 rebound advantage. The Gamecocks tallied eight blocks and scored 13 points off 18 Lady Bulldog turnovers.
Carolina’s 18-5 run in the fourth quarter turned a four-point Gamecock advantage into a 55-38 lead with 2:43 left to play in the game. Junior guard Allisha Gray scored 11 points during the crucial stretch.
The Gamecocks kept Georgia off the line throughout much of Thursday’s game, and the Lady Bulldogs made just three free throws on eight attempts.
- Thursday marked the sixth time the Gamecocks held an opponent to single digits in the first quarter this season. Georgia failed to reach double-digits in the opening period in both of its meetings against Carolina on the year.
- Senior center Alaina Coates joined junior forward A’ja Wilson on the list of Gamecocks to amass 200 career blocks with her first-quarter swat against Georgia.
- Carolina has held its last two opponents to just three made free throws. Then fourth-ranked Mississippi State went 3-of-9 from the line in the Gamecocks’ victory over the Bulldogs Monday night.
- A Gamecock has recorded a double-double in seven of Carolina’s eight SEC games this season.
The Gamecocks resume SEC play on Mon., Jan. 30, when they play host to Tennessee at Colonial Life Arena. Tipoff between Carolina and the Lady Volunteers is set for 6 p.m., and the contest will air on ESPN2.