The long exam break seemed to do the South Carolina offense a world of good.
After averaging 55 points in the first seven contests, the Gamecocks used a balanced attack for a 71-57 victory against USC Upstate at Colonial Life Arena on Tuesday night.
Lakeisha Sutton led the way with a career-high 24 points as four Gamecocks reached double figures in a game for the first time this season. The 24 points were the most by a Gamecock player this season.
“I think Lakeisha played one of the most complete games that she has all season,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “She just took what was there today and played off of her natural ability. She doesn’t make good decisions when she starts hesitating. She just took it to the basket and played aggressively which is what we want her to do.”
Sutton earned her first start of the regular season mainly because of injuries to C.J. Pace and Sada Wheeler, but she made the most of her opportunity. The freshman from Trenton, New Jersey made 7-of-16 shots and hit two of the three USC 3-pointers. She added four assists, three rebounds and three steals.
“The break helped me focus more,” Sutton said. “We were able to get more individual skill work and that helped me a little more tonight.
Senior Demetress Adams continued her recent strong play with her second double-double in a row. She finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Brionna Dickerson finished with 15 points and Samone Kennedy added a season-high 10 points in her first start of the season.
Adams said the 10-day break between games helped the Gamecocks (5-3) prepare for a stretch that includes two teams currently ranked in the top 10.
Stanford visits Columbia on Friday night, and Adams knows the intensity level will increase beginning then.
“We had a chance to break down some plays and get back to the basics,” Adams said. “We know things are going to start getting tougher beginning Friday night. We have to bring the same intensity that we attacked this game with and continue with it the rest of the season.”
Chelsea McMillan almost single-handily kept the Spartans (4-3) close in the first half. The 6-foot sophomore had 15 of her 16 points in the first half and scored the first 13 points of the game for USC Upstate. Kendra Wallace broke the string with a jumper with 7:29 remaining in the first half.
But thanks to an offense that played within itself, the Gamecocks are looking forward to the tough stretch to round out the calendar year.
“I’m satisfied with the effort but we have to retain information better,” Staley said. “We’re building towards that. We have two many basketball lapses right now and playing teams like Stanford will make you pay for that.”
3-pointers: Upstate 4-13 (McMillan 0-2, Frost 2-2, Wallace 1-5, Daniel 0-2, Hawkins 1-2). USC 3-6 (Sutton 2-3, Dickerson 1-3). Turnovers: Upstate 21, USC 18. Officials: Titus, Fountain, Pitock. A: 2,250