USC Women's Basketball

Gamecocks hammer Vandy, enter final stretch

Gamecocks count down to postseason play

Coach Dawn Staley talks about how the team is coming together as a unit and is ready for the games ahead
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Coach Dawn Staley talks about how the team is coming together as a unit and is ready for the games ahead

They needed an easy game after the last one.

And before the next three.

Sixth-ranked South Carolina bludgeoned Vanderbilt 82-51 Thursday to begin its end-of-season run toward a fourth straight SEC regular-season championship. The Gamecocks (22-3, 12-1 SEC) concluded the evening tied with Mississippi State for first place, with each facing a tough three-game stretch to finish the year.

USC will travel to Missouri and then to Texas A&M before hosting Kentucky on Senior Day. The Bulldogs are at A&M and Kentucky before hosting Tennessee on Senior Day.

A fight to the finish, just as USC hoped it would be.

Now to take care of business.

“It’s a good stretch for us,” said coach Dawn Staley, who pointed out that while USC was picked as champ in the preseason, it was never going to be automatic after losing so much talent. “I just think that for our team that has played this season, the pieces that we’ve had to put together and gel, for them to put us back in this position, I think that’s a great accomplishment.”

The Commodores (12-14, 2-11), a freshman-stocked group under first-year coach Stephanie White, didn’t figure to offer much of a challenge. USC, needing to show there was no hangover from the loss at Connecticut Monday, made sure of it.

Five players scored in double figures, led by Kaela Davis and Alaina Coates with 15 points apiece. USC didn’t need to take the air out of the ball against a team that maxed out at 6-foot-1 so it targeted A’ja Wilson and Coates early. The twin towers pushed the Gamecocks to a 23-6 first-quarter lead.

The offense stagnated a bit in the second but the Commodores never got closer than 10 points. USC was able to sit its stars for most of the fourth quarter and get some quality minutes out of its bench.

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan responded with her best game in a month, scoring 12 points with two blocked shots. USC assisted on 19 baskets.

The Gamecocks were out-rebounded by a smaller team and missed more free throws (16) than they made (15). But they were never in danger of losing and could play relaxed basketball for a change.

It’s the last time for a while. Starting Sunday, every game holds high implications for championships, tournament seeding and NCAA tournament placement.

In short, why every player signed to play for USC.

“It’s definitely exciting. To be in this position, this takes a lot,” Davis said. “We got to finish that stretch out. It’s definitely exciting to know we could come out on top at the end of the day.”

NOTE: USC clinched a top-four spot in the SEC tournament, which will be played in Greenville. The Gamecocks will play their first game Friday, March 3, at a time to be determined.

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Vanderbilt (12-14)—Overbeck 3-8 0-0 6, Webb 2-5 1-2 5, Clemons-Green 1-5 0-0 2, Spears 2-3 5-6 10, Whalen 0-6 2-2 2, Bell 0-4 0-0 0, Carter 1-12 7-10 9, Dahlman 2-6 0-0 6, Reed 1-4 8-8 11, Totals 12-53 23-28 51.

South Carolina (22-3)—Wilson 4-7 2-2 10, Coates 6-9 3-6 15, Davis 6-14 2-4 15, Gray 4-8 3-6 11, Harris 4-10 0-0 9, Herbert Harrigan 5-5 2-4 12, Bradshaw 0-0 1-2 1, Cliney 1-2 0-2 2, Cuevas-Moore 2-8 2-3 7, Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Patrick 0-2 0-2 0, Totals 32-67 15-31 82.

3-Point Goals—Vanderbilt 4-18 (Clemons-Green 0-2, Spears 1-2, Whalen 0-3, Bell 0-1, Carter 0-2, Dahlman 2-6, Reed 1-2), South Carolina 3-18 (Davis 1-5, Gray 0-3, Harris 1-2, Cliney 0-1, Cuevas-Moore 1-4, Davis 0-2, Patrick 0-1). Assists—Vanderbilt 7 (Carter 2), South Carolina 19 (Gray 5). Fouled Out—Vanderbilt Webb, Whalen, Rebounds—Vanderbilt 41 (Webb 12), South Carolina 37 (Wilson 8). Total Fouls—Vanderbilt 28, South Carolina 19. A—13,089.

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