South Carolina played at the pace Wake Forest wanted to, but then the Gamecocks beat their ACC opponentat their own game.
USC turned in a stellar defensive effort to knock off the Demon Deacons 62-52 Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena for its fourth consecutive victory, its longest under coach Dawn Staley.
USC held Wake to 29 percent shooting from the floor and clamped down on Brittany Waters and the rest of the Deacons starters with the exception of Secily Ray.
Ray scored 16 points, but the other four starters combined to go 3-for-27. Waters came in averaging just less than 20 points a game and was held to two points on 1-for-11 shooting; second-leading scorer Sandra Garcia was 1-for-6 for two points.
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Wake Forest (7-3) was 7-for-32 from beyond the 3-point line.
"This was one of our better defensive games," Staley said. "When the people that (are) supposed to score aren't scoring, then you are doing your job. Somebody else has to beat you, and fortunately for us, it wasn't enough to win the game. We certainly made a conscience effort to take their leading scorers out of the game."
The Gamecocks (6-3) needed that type of defensive effort because the offense took a step backward. La'Keisha Sutton scored 18 points, Valerie Nainima added 13, and Kelsey Bone chipped in with 11 points and 13 rebounds. But USC tied its season high with 24 turnovers and had only five assists.
Nainima and Samone Kennedy came in as the two hottest scorers, but until Nainima hit a 3-pointer in the final 20 seconds of the first half, they were held scoreless. Still, USC held a 33-25 lead at halftime and secured a double-digit victory despite losing the turnover battle. Kennedy finished with two points after averaging 16 the two previous games.
"Minus the turnovers, we probably could have opened up the game more than we did," Staley said.
Sutton said one of the keys was USC's ability to prevent the Deacons from turning turnovers into easy points. USC held a 21-13 advantage in points off turnovers and a 10-4 edge in fast-break points.
"We emphasized stopping the ball in transition and cutting down their two leading scorers, Waters and Garcia, and I think we did a good job of executing the game plan," Sutton said.
Sutton is the team's leading returning scorer, but with the addition of Nainima and Bone, she hasn't been called upon to be the offensive weapon she was a year ago. The s was the first time she has led USC in scoring in a game this season.
"It was a great game for Keisha," Staley said. "It was one we needed from a coaching and a team standpoint, and it was one she needed just from a confidence standpoint."
Sutton said scoring is not a big concern for her.
"I don't worry about scoring," Sutton said. "I can score 20 or two points; as long as we win, it doesn't matter. I'm trying to be real aggressive on defense this year. That's my goal this year, is to be a defensive stopper."