Dawn Staley’s first postseason appearance at South Carolina ended Wednesday night with her first postseason win.
The Gamecocks beat Appalachian State 67-54 in Colonial Life Arena in the first round of the WNIT and earned another home game in the process.
South Carolina will play Charlotte, which beat Liberty 62-56 Wednesday night, Sunday at 2 p.m. in Colonial Life Arena in the tournament’s second round.
South Carolina (18-14) allowed the Southern Conference regular season champions to remain in the game for 30 minutes before pulling away with a 16-8 run in the final seven minutes The Gamecocks hadn’t played since March 4, when they lost 66-34 to Georgia in the SEC Tournament.
“We might have been a little rusty just to start, but I think that we handled it,” junior forward Charenee Stephens said. “We maintained the first half and came out the second half and kept hitting them.”
The Gamecocks got 39 points off the bench, including a game-high 13 from Stephens and 12 each from Markeshia Grant and Ashley Bruner. Stephens added 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season and first since Dec. 1.
“I thought Charenee just played truly outstanding for us tonight,” Staley said. “Our bench, a couple of them can be starters for us. I have really been pleased with how they have been performing. Night after night, we will get a spark off the bench from somebody.”
The Gamecocks held Appalachian State guard Sam Ramirez, the SoCon’s player of the year, to nine points and five of those came in the final 2:29 after the game had been decided. Mountaineers leading scorer Ashlen Dewart had six points, 10 below her season average.
The Gamecocks pulled their overall WNIT record to 3-3 with the victory and have now won six in a row against the Mountaineers (25-7).
“If we’re in the WNIT, we feel like we should win it,” Bruner said. “That’s how we feel.”