GREENVILLE, S.C. – South Carolina’s defense was dominant in a 72-48 win over Georgia in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena Friday afternoon. The top-seeded Gamecocks, who paired staunch defense with a high-speed offense, limited the Lady Bulldogs to just 16 points in the opening half, the lowest scoring half by an opponent this season, en route to a commanding 42-16 lead after the opening 20 minutes.
With early shots not falling, South Carolina’s defense set the stage for a big first half. As the Gamecocks turned up the defensive pressure, they also pushed the Lady Bulldog defense on its heels, aggressively driving to the basket and drawing fouls. Eight of South Carolina’s 17 first-quarter points came via the free throw line, and the clean looks helped uncap the offense in the second quarter. South Carolina hit 46.7 percent from the field in the second 10 minutes, while the defense continued to stymie the Lady Bulldogs, who shot just 19.4 percent for the half.
The Gamecocks started cold from the field, missing their first four shots, but A’ja Wilson finally broke through after a hard drive from Bianca Cuevas-Moore drew the defense and the junior guard found her teammate for an easy look on the left block. Wilson netted the next four points on a transition layup and a pair of free throws to five the Gamecocks a 7-5 lead, their first of the game, with 5:29 to go in the first quarter.
South Carolina started to press Georgia, sparking a 10-2 run that ended the quarter with the Gamecocks up 17-7. Allisha Gray hit her first of what would become three 3s in the half to cap the scoring for the quarter.
The Gamecocks continued to be aggressive on both ends in the second quarter, forcing a pair of Lady Bulldog turnovers early and opening the period on a 14-2 run that included five points from Wilson and another 3 from Gray. Georgia found its footing after getting to the free throw line a few times midway through the period, but the Gamecocks offense was on full display. Again, a 3-pointer capped the quarter, this one from Doniyah Cliney, and the Gamecocks took a 42-16 lead into the locker room.
South Carolina’s offense stayed hot in the second half, shooting 63.6 percent in the third quarter to continue to extend its advantage over the Lady Bulldogs. Cliney, Cuevas-Moore and Kaela Davis were the catalysts as the Gamecocks kept the pressure on through the remainder of the game.
Every Gamecock able to play in the game recorded at least five minutes with seven of the 10 scoring at least four points.
Dawn Staley Opening Statement
I thought we came out of the gates ready to rock and roll, pushing the pace, not allowing Georgia to play at the pace they had been successful playing against us. I thought we took advantage of the space that was left by Alaina Caotes not being able to play today. But, we look forward to having her, hopefully, tomorrow.
South Carolina shot 16-of-21 (.762) from the free throw line in the first half, including 8-of-11 in the 17-point first quarter to help the offense get on track.
Georgia’s 16 first-half points were the fewest allowed by the Gamecock defense in a half this season.
- Junior forward A’ja Wilson’s seven blocked shots were a season high and the most ever by a Gamecock in an SEC Tournament game. The number was one short of the SEC Tournament overall record.
- Freshman forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan drew her second start of the season in the absence of senior Alaina Coates and posted a career-high 10 rebounds
- Sophomore guard Doniyah Cliney netted a career-high 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
South Carolina advances to the SEC Tournament semifinals for the fourth-straight season and will play with the winner of the Alabama/Kentucky quarterfinal at 5 p.m. on Sat., Mar. 4.