Alaina Coates admittedly needs a kick-start every now and again, simply to remind herself how important she is to the overall performance of No. 4 South Carolina.
The senior received that in a loss to Tennessee earlier this week, and she continued to play with a renewed purpose in a 79-49 win at Arkansas on Sunday.
Coates put together her second straight dominating performance, scoring 18 points and grabbing a career-best 19 rebounds for the Gamecocks (20-2, 10-1 Southeastern Conference). It was her second straight game with a career high in rebounds. Both followed the loss to the Lady Vols, a game in which she scored in single digits for a third straight time.
The 6-foot-4 center has had no such problems on either end of the court since that loss, and she finished 8 of 11 from the field against the Razorbacks (13-10, 2-8).
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“Over the course of my career, I’ve kind of been on stretches of having a lull in my play,” Coates said. “I’m just trying to make sure I don’t hit those lulls like I did last time, especially being a significant part to the team. I don’t want to take away something that’s also a piece of the puzzle we need to be successful.”
The double-double was the 14th of the season for Coates and 55th of her career with the Gamecocks, who have won eight straight games against Arkansas.
A’ja Wilson added 18 points for the Gamecocks, while Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray had 10 each, but it was Coates — who also finished with four assists — who continued to rebound from a lackluster three-game stretch in which she scored a total of 17 points.
“I didn’t challenge her, but I saw less activity from her, posting up and not giving us the targets that she had given us prior to her not scoring in double figures,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “Once you bring it to her attention, she usually does a really good job at making adjustments, and it significantly helps our basketball team.”
Facing both Coates and the 6-foot-5 Wilson, the Razorbacks were outmatched on Sunday — particularly after leading scorer Jessica Jackson went to the bench with two first-quarter fouls.
Aaliyah Wilson scored 16 points to lead Arkansas, but the Razorbacks shot just 27.7 percent (18 of 65) and were outrebounded 46-30 in the loss.
South Carolina, which never trailed and led by as many as 33 points in the second half, scored 40 of its points inside the paint.
“Their size can just overwhelm, not only us, but they can overwhelm most teams in the country with the exception of four or five,” Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes said.
South Carolina: While the Gamecocks did lose at home to Tennessee, that defeat appears to have awakened Coates — a welcomed sign for the back-to-back SEC Tournament champions who are trying to return to the Final Four after falling short last season.
Arkansas: After starting the season 9-0, the Razorbacks are 4-10 in their last 14 games. They are 43-42 overall in three seasons under former ESPN analyst Dykes, 15-27 in the SEC, and in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year. “We’re not where South Carolina is yet,” Dykes said. “We’re wanting to be there someday, but we’re in a different place in year three than they are right now.”
While South Carolina is likely to lose some votes for its loss to Tennessee, the follow-up win over a ranked Kentucky team and blowout victory at Arkansas should limit how far the Gamecocks fall.
South Carolina hosts Auburn on Thursday.
South Carolina (20-2)—Wilson 5-9 8-9 18, Coates 8-11 2-2 18, Davis 4-11 0-0 10, Gray 4-9 0-0 10, Harris 1-2 2-2 4, Herbert Harrigan 3-4 0-1 6, Bradshaw 0-2 0-0 0, Cliney 0-4 0-0 0, Cuevas-Moore 2-5 6-6 10, Patrick 1-1 0-0 3, Totals 28-58 18-20 79.
Arkansas (13-10)—Jackson 1-11 0-0 2, Williams 1-3 2-2 4, Zimmerman 1-4 4-4 7, Mason 1-7 0-0 3, Monk 1-10 0-0 2, Stout 0-0 0-0 0, Cooley 3-4 0-0 6, Cosper 1-5 0-0 3, Swenson 3-8 0-0 6, Wilson 6-13 1-2 16, Totals 18-65 7-8 49.
3-Point Goals—South Carolina 5-14 (Davis 2-6, Gray 2-5, Cliney 0-1, Cuevas-Moore 0-1, Patrick 1-1), Arkansas 6-29 (Jackson 0-5, Zimmerman 1-4, Mason 1-4, Monk 0-1, Cosper 1-4, Swenson 0-4, Wilson 3-7). Assists—South Carolina 17 (Harris 5), Arkansas 10 (Mason 4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—South Carolina 46 (Coates 19), Arkansas 30 (Jackson 5). Total Fouls—South Carolina 13, Arkansas 17. A—1,650.