South Carolina women’s basketball dropped its second game of the season in a controversial 83-74 road loss against No. 15 Missouri on Sunday, as head coach Dawn Staley was tossed with two technical fouls and star senior forward A’ja Wilson fouled out for just the fourth time in her career.
The No. 4 Gamecocks (13-2, 2-1 SEC) led for most of the game’s first 2:30, but the Tigers (14-2, 2-1 SEC) took advantage of early foul trouble for Wilson and redshirt junior forward Alexis Jennings to grab the lead, and they never looked back, leading the rest of the way.
Within four minutes from the start the game, both Wilson and Jennings had drawn two fouls and were on the bench, not to return for the rest of the first quarter. Meanwhile, Missouri stars Sophie Cunningham, who missed the team’s loss to LSU with a knee injury, and Amber Smith hammered USC down low. The Tigers ended up with 34 points in the paint to 26 for South Carolina.
Cunningham finished the game with 27 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
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Even when Wilson returned in the second quarter, her impact was limited, as she took just two shots and was forced to the bench after a Missouri player walked into her, seemingly slamming her in the mouth. In the third quarter, things didn’t get any better for Wilson, who picked up her fourth foul while she only had four points.
Midway through the third quarter, Staley drew a technical foul complaining about Wilson’s fourth foul. The technical led to a brief 12-6 run for the Gamecocks, but the Tigers came back to outscore USC in the period, 25-21.
After that fourth foul, Wilson say on the bench for a while before returning in the fourth quarter. Her fifth foul came on the defensive end late in the fourth quarter as she fought through a screen. Staley, who had berated the officials throughout the game, drew her second technical immediately after the play, reportedly for failing to substitute a player in time, and was ejected.
After the game, Staley said the calls against Wilson were not right and blasted the officiating, pointing out that two of the three referees also called the game between the two programs last season that ended in a narrow 62-60 loss for the Gamecocks. According to Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Staley said she texted the SEC coordinator of officials Sally Bell about that fact before the game and was told it was a coincidence.
But Staley did not believe her ejection was justified, saying that on the second call she “didn’t say anything. I just sat there,” she said, according to Tyler Murray of ABC 17.
“She’s the best player in the country and plays half the game,” Staley added of Wilson’s foul troubles, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, calling that “ridiculous.”
All told, the Gamecocks drew 26 total fouls throughout the game, their most of the season.
The Gamecocks were led statistically by sophomore guard Tyasha Harris, who ended the game with 14 points and 10 assists, her fourth double double of the season. Freshman guard Bianca Jackson also added 14 points, and Jennings, after playing just one minute in the first half, came back to record 11 points and five rebounds.
“I thought our kids, under the circumstances they were put in, they were great,” Staley said. “Throughout my career at Temple and South Carolina, I’ve heard people call us street fighters, I’ve heard a lot of names for the way that we play. And if we retaliate with some of the players that are out there, those would be the names that would pop up again. I have to protect my players.”
South Carolina returns home to Colonial Life Arena to face Auburn on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Gamecocks also get a rematch against Mizzou on Jan. 28 at home.
SOUTH CAROLINA (13-2)—Jennings 4-6 3-4 11, Wilson 4-7 0-2 8, Cliney 1-7 0-0 2, Harris 6-12 2-2 14, Spann 4-11 0-0 11, Grissett 0-3 3-4 3, Herbert Harrigan 4-6 3-4 11, Jackson 4-6 3-4 14, Patrick 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 27-58 14-20 74.
MISSOURI (14-2)—Frericks 1-8 2-4 4, Porter 4-8 3-3 11, Aldridge 1-1 1-2 4, Cunningham 9-10 9-11 27, Smith 7-11 3-4 20, Michael 0-2 1-2 1, Schuchts 2-3 0-0 6, Chavis 2-4 2-2 7, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Roundtree 1-1 0-0 3, Totals 27-48 21-28 83.
3-Point Goals—South Carolina 6-18 (Cliney 0-1, Harris 0-2, Spann 3-10, Jackson 3-5), Missouri 8-13 (Porter 0-1, Aldridge 1-1, Smith 3-4, Michael 0-1, Schuchts 2-3, Chavis 1-2, Roundtree 1-1). Assists—South Carolina 12 (Harris 10), Missouri 20 (Cunningham 7). Fouled Out—South Carolina Wilson, Missouri Frericks, Schuchts. Rebounds—South Carolina 26 (Wilson 6), Missouri 34 (Smith 12). Total Fouls—South Carolina 26, Missouri 20. A—4,652.