Dawn Staley says South Carolina must ‘simplify’ its game heading into SEC play
An old-fashioned Texas shootout broke out Thursday night as No. 23 South Carolina opened SEC play on the road at No. 21 Texas A&M.
For the Aggies, it was star sophomore Chennedy Carter. For the Gamecocks, it was redshirt junior Te’a Cooper. Both players fired away and dominated the ball for their respective offenses, but in the end, it was Cooper and Carolina who came out on top for a thrilling 60-57 win.
Off the opening tip, Cooper drove the lane and scored right over Carter. That set the tone for a back-and-forth affair in which Carter and the Aggies took the early upper hand, only for Cooper and USC (9-4) to come storming back to secure their first win against a ranked opponent this season.
After Cooper and sophomore forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan hit Carolina’s first two shots of the game, USC went 2-for-17 for the rest of the first quarter. Texas A&M, meanwhile, took an early 15-8 lead, thanks in large part to Carter, the reigning national freshman of the year, who seemed to drive the lane at will and draw fouls. Of her 19 points on the night, 12 came off free throws.
South Carolina figured out its shooting woes in the second quarter, as Cooper began to take over after scoring just the one basket in the first period. She tallied six points and three assists in the second quarter, often off drives through traffic into the paint.
At halftime, though, the Aggies still led 37-28, thanks to Carter and sophomore forward Ciera Johnson, who had a double-double in just 16 minutes of play.
After the break, Cooper continued to attack, as head coach Dawn Staley channeled most of her offense through the Tennessee transfer and Herbert Harrigan, who posted a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Carter, meanwhile, slowed dramatically and struggled to connect from the field, and Carolina went on a 17-6 run to tie the game.
Into the fourth quarter, both teams struggled to put up points and shot below 31 percent from the field. Junior guard Tyasha Harris recorded the only field goal of the game’s final four minutes when she sank a layup as the shot clock wound down down to give USC a 58-55 lead at 1:36.
Carter was fouled on both of A&M’s next two possessions, but she made just two of her four free throws. Then, with 6.3 seconds left and the Gamecocks still up 58-57, Cooper was fouled to stop the clock and sent to the line. She sank both, and a desperate heave by Carter in the final seconds missed, securing the Gamecocks’ second consecutive one-possession win in the series.
Star of the game: Cooper tallied 22 points, twice that of Carolina’s next highest scorer, and she also dished six assists and grabbed seven rebounds.
Stat of the game: Points in the paint were 38-20 in favor of the Gamecocks, and most of that edge came from USC’s guards, who couldn’t seem to buy a 3-pointer but made up for it by driving the lane aggressively and making tough shots.
Play of the game: Cooper’s two free throws late proved the difference and were emblematic of her dominance in a game where South Carolina desperately needed her outstanding individual effort to take over and win.
Weak from 3: South Carolina’s inconsistency from beyond the arc remained consistent, and contagious, on Sunday, as the Gamecocks shot 0-for-10 from 3 in the first half. They improved a little in the second half but still finished a dreadful 2-for-18.
Block fest: Mikiah Herbert Harrigan entered Thursday’s contest averaging 2.1 blocks per game, leading one of the nation’s top 10 teams in blocks. She had four swats in the third quarter alone and six on the game.
South Carolina hosts Alabama on Sunday on ESPNU. Tipoff is schedule for noon at Colonial Life Arena.
|SOUTH CAROLINA (9-4)|
Herbert Harrigan 5-10 1-1 11, Jennings 3-7 0-0 6, Cooper 7-18 9-11 24, Harris 2-8 0-0 4, Henderson 2-10 0-0 5, Grissett 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-2 0-0 0, Saxton 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 2-2 0-0 4, Cliney 0-1 0-0 0, Cuevas-Moore 3-8 0-0 6, Perry 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 24-67 10-12 60.
|TEXAS A&M (11-3)|
Jones 3-12 1-2 7, Johnson 5-10 3-4 13, Carter 3-19 12-15 19, Washington 2-6 1-1 5, Wells 4-17 4-5 13, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Rael-Whitsitt 0-0 0-0 0, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 17-65 21-27 57.
3-Point Goals_South Carolina 2-18 (Cooper 1-5, Harris 0-4, Henderson 1-5, Jackson 0-1, Cliney 0-1, Cuevas-Moore 0-2), Texas A&M 2-11 (Carter 1-5, Washington 0-2, Wells 1-4). Assists_South Carolina 11 (Cooper 6), Texas A&M 7 (Carter 4). Fouled Out_South Carolina Herbert Harrigan, Rebounds_South Carolina 49 (Herbert Harrigan 16), Texas A&M 45 (Johnson 17). Total Fouls_South Carolina 22, Texas A&M 17. Technical Fouls_None.A_4,010