USC Women's Basketball

Gamecocks take out Auburn, switch focus to UConn

Gamecocks turn focus to UConn

The South Carolina women's basketball team prepares to face No. 1 UConn on the road on Monday.
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The South Carolina women's basketball team prepares to face No. 1 UConn on the road on Monday.

As much as the SEC’s top offense wanted to run, to push and punch and exert its will, it didn’t.

Sixth-ranked South Carolina discovered that patience – and shackling defense – can be a virtue.

The Gamecocks deliberately dismantled Auburn 60-41 on Thursday, improving to 21-2 and staying atop the SEC at 11-1. Playing against a team whose tallest players were 6-foot-2, the solution seemed clear – throw the ball inside to A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates, and see you next time.

The Tigers (15-10, 5-6) expected it, though, and packed the zone against the two forwards. They dared USC to shoot from outside, as they did on Jan. 5 at Auburn.

In that game, Kaela Davis rained five 3s in the first quarter and USC was staked to a 23-point lead. In this one, she nailed a 3 for USC’s first points, then tweaked an ankle and had to come out, forcing the Gamecocks to do exactly what they didn’t want to do – slow down.

“We just wanted to see how they came out and played it,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We just wanted to be really patient and reverse the ball a few times and find where we could get ahead of the possession and get better shots, or better looks.”

It was OK to use 25 seconds on a possession, as long as it ends in a good shot. Sometimes that was another 3-pointer, sometimes that was Allisha Gray finding Coates cutting to the basket.

USC tried to run and it usually ended in a turnover. Patient, steady pace? Two (or three) points.

The approach posted a 13-point lead, the Gamecocks came out shooting in the second half and their defense remained marvelous. Auburn averages 65 points per game and USC had the Tigers at 25 through three quarters.

“We definitely took our time,” said Coates, who finished with 16 points. “Noticing how they played the zone, it would definitely work in our favor.”

The Gamecocks simply wouldn’t allow clean looks. Auburn shot 29.8 percent and attempted eight free throws. USC blocked seven shots – two by point guard Ty Harris -- and had three steals, and that led to the expected mauling in the paint (34-6 point advantage). They also assisted 18 times on 25 buckets.

They cruised to another win, and then could talk about the game everyone will be watching Monday.

Top-ranked Connecticut. In Storrs. Huskies most likely going for their 100th straight win.

“It’s exciting, obviously, to play the No. 1 team in the country on their floor,” Staley said. “To put this team in that environment.”

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

Auburn

9

7

9

16

41

South Carolina

14

15

20

11

60

Auburn (15-10)—Jones 2-7 0-0 4, Jones 0-2 1-2 1, Frerking 5-10 2-2 14, McKay 1-6 0-0 3, Montgomery 0-5 0-0 0, Alexander 0-1 0-0 0, Dieng 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 4-9 0-0 10, Jones 1-5 1-2 4, Lewis 1-1 2-2 5, Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 14-47 6-8 41.

South Carolina (21-2)—Wilson 8-11 1-2 17, Coates 7-9 2-4 16, Davis 4-9 0-0 11, Gray 3-7 2-2 9, Harris 1-4 0-0 3, Herbert Harrigan 1-1 0-0 2, Bradshaw 0-2 0-0 0, Cliney 1-1 0-0 2, Cuevas-Moore 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 25-44 5-8 60.

3-Point Goals—Auburn 7-18 (Frerking 2-3, McKay 1-2, Montgomery 0-3, Alexander 0-1, Johnson 2-5, Jones 1-3, Lewis 1-1), South Carolina 5-14 (Davis 3-7, Gray 1-4, Harris 1-2, Bradshaw 0-1). Assists—Auburn 10 (Frerking 5), South Carolina 18 (Gray 6). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Auburn 21 (Jones 4), South Carolina 30 (Coates 9). Total Fouls—Auburn 11, South Carolina 10. A—13,360.

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