With its back against the wall and staring down a crucial SEC loss, South Carolina women’s basketball got everything it needed from two newcomers and one savvy veteran.
After trailing by 12 by one point at Arkansas, the Gamecocks stormed back to defeat the Razorbacks, 87-79, on Sunday, strengthening the team’s grip on second place in the conference and keeping its hopes for a regular season title alive.
Playing its third game in seven days, USC leaned heavily on junior guard Tyasha Harris, freshman forward Victaria Saxton and freshman guard Destanni Henderson to outscore Arkansas 35-23 in the fourth quarter, the most points Carolina has ever scored in a final quarter.
Henderson and Saxton led USC with 19 points each, while Harris added 15 points, five assists and four rebounds.
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That strong finish erased any memory or a poor start in which South Carolina missed its first 10 field goal attempts. Over the course of that drought, Arkansas built up a 9-0 lead. With 5:42 left in the first quarter, senior forward Alexis Jennings finally put USC on the board with a jumper. That shot jump-started a 7-for-10 stretch from the field to finish the quarter. Senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore led the way with three baskets in a row at one point.
Into the second quarter, Saxton, who has provided Staley with a spark off the bench as of late, came in and tallied seven points and four rebounds in just over five minutes. Fellow freshman Destanni Henderson added four points, two rebounds and an assist in the period.
With 4:09 left in the half, Henderson’s helper to junior guard Te’a Cooper put the Gamecocks within one, 33-32. But Arkansas senior guard Malica Monk continued to tear apart the USC defense, scoring Arkansas’ final eight points to restore her team’s advantage to 39-33 at the break. Monk led all scorers at the break with 19.
Sophomore guard Chelsea Dungee picked up where Monk left off in the third quarter, putting up 10 points to help beat back any run the Gamecocks made.
But while neither team shot the ball very well on the night, South Carolina got plenty of second chances with 20 offensive rebounds. Arkansas kept pace early on with seven made 3-pointers, but USC’s defensive pressure eventually started to take its toll on the Razorbacks.
With 7:56 left to play, South Carolina took its first lead of the game on a fast-break layup from Harris. From there, she proceeded to take over. After scoring five points in the first 10 minutes and being held scoreless in the middle two quarters, she exploded for 10 points, including eight in a 12-2 run.
Henderson, Saxton and Harris accounted for USC’s first 26 points in the fourth quarter, and Arkansas made just one 3-pointer in the final 10 minutes.
Star of the game: The freshman duo of Henderson and Saxton both set career highs in scoring, but Saxton was simply on another level with eight rebounds, five of them offensive, and a perfect 7-for-7 mark from the field.
Stat of the game: South Carolina started 1-for-12 from 3. Then the Gamecocks went 3-for-4 from long range in the their comeback stretch.
Play of the game: With 8:19 left in the fourth quarter and South Carolina trailing 58-54, Saxton got the ball inside and amid a crowd of defenders had the awarness to kick the ball out to Henderson for a 3-pointer to put USC within one and spark the game-winning surge..
South Carolina returns home to play Ole Miss on Thursday at 7 p.m. The Gamecocks and the Rebels will be streamed online on SEC Network Plus.