South Carolina cruised past Alabama 77-51 Sunday afternoon to bounce back from its midweek loss at Texas A&M.
At one point in the first half, as freshman Alaina Coates posted up an Alabama defender, someone in the crowd yelled, "Not as good as ours!" Sure enough, Coates scored an easy bucket, two of her 10 points, and that was the game in a nutshell. South Carolina (17-2, 5-1 SEC) pounded the ball inside to its three bigs, Coates, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch, and Alabama lacked the size or talent to answer.
The Gamecocks used a 13-2 run early in the first half to break open the game, and then never looked back. Leading 9-5 after a sloppy start, six different Gamecocks scored baskets during the run. Asia Dozier, Welch, Ibiam, Tina Roy (a three-point basket), Olivia Gaines, and Coates all scored baskets. The Crimson Tide managed to cut the lead to ten, but never got into single digits and spent most of the half trailing by more than 20 points.
"For us it was a great team effort on both sides of the ball," said head coach Dawn Staley. "We need that kind of effort every time we step on the floor."
South Carolina dominated almost every facet of the game. Both teams attempted 58 field goals, but South Carolina shot 51.7 percent from the floor, while holding Alabama (8-10, 1-4) to 32.8 percent shooting. The Gamecocks had 25 assists on 30 made baskets, and made 10-11 free throws. They had a 43-24 edge on the glass, ten point edge on points in the paint, and three point edge in points off turnovers. The only area where the Gamecocks didn't dominate was turnovers. They were unable to turn Alabama over, getting only 10 turnovers, while turning the ball over 15 times.
"I thought we can take a little bit better care of the ball with 15 (turnovers), but at least it's not 20," Staley said.
Another concern for South Carolina is the health of Tiffany Davis. Davis, who has started seven games at point guard, played only one minute before leaving with a left shoulder injury. Davis collided with a defender and fell to the floor grabbing her shoulder in pain. She was held out the rest of the game and sat on the bench with her arm in a sling. Staley said after the game she does not expect Davis to miss any time, but it is the second time this season Davis has injured that shoulder.
Ibiam lead all scorers with 18 points. She finished one off her career-high, but did set a career-high for conference games. Welch had a double-double for the Gamecocks with 12 points and ten rebounds. It was her second straight double-double and third in the last four games. Coates finished one rebound away from a double-double, and added a pair of emphatic blocks.
Ashley Williams led Alabama with 18 points. Shafontaye Myers, who came in averaging over 15 points per game, was held to five points on 2-14 shooting.
South Carolina is off this week. The next game is next Sunday against Vanderbilt, who is also off this week. The Gamecocks enter the bye week tied with the Commodores for the second best record in the SEC. The Gamecocks beat the Commodores 76-66
Olivia Gaines started at guard. She was the third different player to start opposite Mitchell in the last three games, following Davis and Khadijah Sessions. Though listed at point guard, Gaines is not a ball handler and Mitchell acts as the primary ball handler... Mitchell wore a mask in the first half, but shed the gear at halftime... She had a quietly efficient game, scoring only seven points, but adding eight assists and six rebounds... India Farmer made a three-pointer late in the game. It was the second made basket of her career. The walk-on also made a three-pointer against NC Central... Staley was honored throughout the game for her induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. There was also a reception in Staley's honor following the game. Neither was organized by Staley. "Honestly, I'm over the Hall of Fame stuff," she said. "I wish we were too."... There was a light moment prior to the game. While highlights of Staley's career played on the scoreboard, the players laughed at some of Staley's more questionable hairstyles as a player.