David Cloninger

Kaela Davis provides punch that’s not on the stat sheet

South Carolina’s Kaela Davis provided a defensive spark in the second half, helping shut down Mississippi State All-American Victoria Vivians during the Gamecocks’ win.
South Carolina’s Kaela Davis provided a defensive spark in the second half, helping shut down Mississippi State All-American Victoria Vivians during the Gamecocks’ win. tglantz@thestate.com

I was going to point it out because it would have to be pointed out: Kaela Davis was costing South Carolina the game.

The shooter who bombarded Ohio State for 37 points in the season opener was 1 of 9 for four points. She played 29 minutes and had as many rebounds as her name has Y’s. Every missed shot or mistake she made was being turned into a Mississippi State bucket.

Yet when looking at the second half, where the Gamecocks turned to Allisha Gray and A’ja Wilson and survived three great MSU looks in the final 18 seconds, I realized what happened.

Bulldog All-American Victoria Vivians, who finished 4 of 16 for 12 points, couldn’t get a clean look against USC’s defense. And it was Davis who was supplying that defense, especially in the second half.

“We didn’t give her Vivians in the second half,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “She took her.”

Davis has made her reputation as a high scorer who is really streaky. If that first shot goes, she’ll have a big night. If not, she’ll try to turn it into a good night because there’s no sense trying to break a shooting slump without shooting.

She couldn’t connect in the first half. When Staley decided to start running plays for Gray in the second, Davis decided to give her backcourt mate a break. She’d take Vivians and let Gray concentrate on scoring.

The Gamecocks took advantage. Vivians couldn’t get a set shot and the one basket she made in the second half was a banked-in 3-pointer where even she looked startled after it went in.

KD can shoot. But K can also play a little D.

“She is probably the best athlete that I’ve coached,” Staley said. “She was definitely special defensively tonight.”

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