USC Women's Basketball

Gamecocks blister Kentucky to remain in first place

The last game had nothing to do with it. Really.

Which made Kentucky shake its head – fourth-ranked South Carolina dominated Thursday because the Gamecocks were that good, not because they were still angry about Monday’s loss to Tennessee.

“It’s not something that we want to continue to talk about,” coach Dawn Staley said after ripping the No. 25 Wildcats 75-63. “It was a game we lost, got to move on.”

They did with one of their most dominant performances of the season, which was much further apart than the score indicated. USC (19-2, 9-1 SEC) leaped in front with an 18-0 run in the second quarter and while Kentucky clawed back in the second half, it was more gaining self-respect than threatening to win.

A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates combined for 40 points and 27 rebounds (Coates with 18 to tie a career-high) while Allisha Gray scored 11 and locked down Kentucky star Makayla Epps. Epps finished with a game-high 23 points but only after a 12-point burst in the fourth. She began 5-of-16 from the field.

“I was just playing defense hard and sticking to my assignment of trying to let her score as least as possible while I was guarding her,” Gray said.

Each team was coming off a loss but Kentucky (15-8, 6-4) thought it could handle USC. The Wildcats prefer to run, which was Tennessee’s biggest strength against the Gamecocks, and USC has never played that well in Memorial Coliseum.

A back-and-forth first quarter had USC ahead 20-15, but Kentucky was hanging around. Their run was coming, they could feel it.

They felt wrong.

Gray hit a free throw. Doniyah Cliney’s steal turned into a Gray 3-pointer. Wilson converted inside, then another steal led to five straight points from Kaela Davis.

The crowd never gave up, and Kentucky kept fighting, but it was cooked. The Gamecocks came to Lexington on business.

They left with their fourth straight win in the series and in first place in the SEC with six games to play.

“I definitely didn’t know that at all,” Wilson said of the run. “That’s just kind of what we do.”

Staley liked USC setting tempo, giving to Kentucky what it usually dishes and keeping them out of stagnating on the offensive end. Standing around and waiting for a shot to appear was a brief bad habit for the Gamecocks, but they seem to have shaken it.

It was another example of how tough USC can be when it floors the gas pedal for a full 40 minutes. Staley wants that to continue.

“We were pushing the ball. We didn’t rely on just our half-court offense,” Staley said. “Sometimes when you got a run going on like that, it’s hard to stop the bleeding.”

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South Carolina (19-2)—Wilson 8-14 4-5 20, Coates 8-9 4-5 20, Davis 3-10 0-0 7, Gray 3-6 3-3 11, Harris 2-5 1-2 7, Herbert Harrigan 2-5 0-0 4, Bradshaw 0-0 0-0 0, Cliney 1-1 0-0 3, Cuevas-Moore 1-5 0-0 3, Patrick 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 28-56 12-15 75.

Kentucky (15-8)—Akhator 3-7 1-2 7, Morris 4-16 4-4 14, Rice 3-5 4-5 10, Epps 8-22 5-7 23, Murray 1-4 0-0 2, Cann 2-7 0-0 6, Poffenberger 0-0 0-0 0, Roper 0-1 1-2 1, Totals 21-62 15-20 63.

3-Point Goals—South Carolina 7-19 (Davis 1-4, Gray 2-5, Harris 2-4, Herbert Harrigan 0-1, Cliney 1-1, Cuevas-Moore 1-3, Patrick 0-1), Kentucky 6-19 (Morris 2-7, Epps 2-4, Cann 2-7, Roper 0-1). Assists—South Carolina 19 (Cliney 6), Kentucky 9 (Murray 5). Fouled Out—Kentucky Morris. Rebounds—South Carolina 40 (Coates 18), Kentucky 29 (Epps 9). Total Fouls—South Carolina 18, Kentucky 15. A—5,533.

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