On Wednesday night, the Gamecocks took that to another level, draining 14 attempts from long range to cruise to a much-needed easy 80-50 win over Appalachian State.
“We just felt we needed to bounce back, we lost a couple games and I think today was a good game for us so we could get back into the normal things that we know we’re used to doing,” said redshirt senior Bianca Cuevas-Moore, who led the team with 12 points.
In the first half alone, USC (5-4) made 12 of 16 shots from 3, surpassing its previous season high of 11 in an entire game.
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That number was just part of an outstanding shooting start for Carolina, which was coming off a demoralizing home loss to Baylor to fall to its worst start since 2010. In the first half, the Gamecocks shot 64.5 percent from the field, including a 7-for-10 stretch to start the game, and 66.7 percent from 3.
“It’s a case of where we take the type of shots that we’re familiar with,” Staley said of the performance. “When it’s like that — we have good ball movement, people’s feet are set, it’s not a rushed shot, it’s the shot that’s supposed to be taken on the floor — we’ll shoot better from the field.
“Those shots aren’t the shots that we took when we faced Baylor. When we face top teams, we rush a little bit, and you can’t do that, especially with teams like that. This team, I thought we were relaxed and we took what was given to us and we moved the ball and I think we got a good balance of going inside and shooting from the outside.”
App State managed to keep the game respectable early by collapsing in on USC’s forwards on defense to force turnovers and breaking South Carolina’s press defense several times. But as the 3s continued to rain down, the score quickly got out of hand and a cavalcade of reserves came in for the Gamecocks. No starter played the final 12 minutes, and all 13 players on USC’s roster scored and grabbed at least one rebound.
“It’s pretty cool, because we got the freshmen in. Some games they don’t play, so it’s kinda cool to see them out on the floor and cheering them on,” said redshirt senior guard Donyiah Cliney, who collected nine points and six rebounds.
The 3-point barrage mostly came to an end after halftime, but in turn the Gamecocks’ post play showed significant improvement, Staley said. After accounting for eight of Carolina’s nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes, the forwards cut down on the mistakes in the third quarter and accounted for 14 of the 22 points in that period.
“Our post players, we did talk about it at halftime, a lot of what we want to do is to get to the front rim and be determined to do that. And I think we did (after the half). Seventy-five to 80 percent of their shots were at the front rim, and good things happened to us,” Staley said.
Star of the game: Bianca Cuevas-Moore, who had looked somewhat tentative in limited minutes so far this year coming off an ACL injury that cost her all of last season, seemed to get her confidence going early and with it, her shooting touch. She needed just 12 minutes to tally 12 points.
Cuevas-Moore is still playing with a bulky knee brace, but Staley said after the game she has been cleared to go without it in non-contact drills, with the hope that she will not need it in games at some point. After that, there’s still room for improvement
“We knew she could shoot the ball. She still has to move and think a lot quicker. And we’re slowly trying to get her out of the brace,” Staley said.
Stat of the game: South Carolina’s 14 made baskets from long range tied for the second most 3-pointers in a game USC has had under Staley.
Play of the game: Donyiah Cliney’s 3-pointer with 4:54 left in the second quarter came as the shot clock was winding down and the Gamecocks continued to whip the ball through the Mountaineers’ defense. Naturally, it banked off the glass and went in, making the score 40-18 and capping a 15-3 run.
South Carolina will play its next two games on the road, beginning with a trip to Durham to play rival Duke on Sunday at 2 p.m.