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WBB: Gamecocks survive Tigers

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

The Gamecocks went on a 30-6 run spanning the first and second quarters, and then clung to that lead through the second half for a 69-57 win over Clemson Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena.

Clemson played a zone defense that, outside of that 30-6 run, which lasted about 10 minutes, kept South Carolina off-balance offensively. USC shot just 36 percent from the floor and committed 27 turnovers.

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Chris Gillespie

"We knew an uglier game, rather than a prettier game, favored us," Clemson coach Amanda Butler said. "We played our zone with a great deal of commitment. They just didn't adjust to it as quickly as they would have hoped."

A lot of the turnovers came off lazy passes around the perimeter. South Carolina's three starting guards were the worst offenders. Tyasha Harris and Bianca Jackson committed six each, and Te'a Cooper had five. Doniyah Cliney wasn't much better, with three turnovers in 14 minutes.

"The zone bothered us," USC head coach Dawn Staley said. "They were keeping us on one side of the floor and we didn't handle it well. I don't think I prepped them well."

South Carolina led by as much as 21 in the second quarter and by 16 at halftime. Clemson came out focused in the third quarter and South Carolina relaxed. Clemson started the quarter on a 16-3 run, as the Gamecocks shot 1-for-11 from the floor and committed nine turnovers. Clemson did all of its damage inside, scoring all but two of its points in the paint, and those two points were free throws.

"They didn't let the scoreboard impact their effort, and that was evidenced most profoundly in the third quarter," Butler said.

"(It was) turnovers and our inability to execute offensively," Staley said. "When you have that you are disrupted and can't get any flow to the game."

The Gamecocks got a mini-run over the last couple minutes of the quarter that seemed to get the team re-energized. Staley called a timeout after the Tigers cut the lead to 44-41, and the Gamecocks cleared out for Cooper. She drove right and got to the basket for a three-point play. Kobi Thornton answered with a basket for the Tigers. LeLe Grissett made a layup and then got a steal as time expired. After being a step slow the entire quarter, the Gamecocks were playing hard again.

South Carolina was up eight with four minutes to play, when Cooper again provided a spark. Cooper trapped Danielle Edwards on the sideline and forced Clemson to use a timeout. As the whistle blew, Edwards elbowed Cooper in the back. The officials saw it, but didn't call technical foul, and that got Cooper fired up. Clemson hit a jumper out of the timeout, but then Cooper took control.

She drove to the basket, drawing a foul and making a free throw. Defensively, she drew a charge, and then got to the rim again. Cooper missed, but Alexis Jennings was fouled on the putback for a three-point play. After another offensive foul by Clemson, Harris found Jackson open in the corner for three. Jackson made the shot to put South Carolina up 13 with 1:51 left, and South Carolina made its free throws to hold on.

Cooper finished with 15 points, including six in the fourth quarter. Harris was the only other player in double figures, with 11 points, but five other players had at least six points. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan tied her career-high with four blocks and set a career-high with four steals. Victoria Saxton also had a career-high five blocks and seven rebounds.

As bad as it played, South Carolina actually had several positives. It outrebounded Clemson 46-42, forced 28 Clemson turnovers and score 29 points off turnovers, blocked 16 shots (tying the most under Staley), and held Clemson to 33 percent shooting. South Carolina just couldn't make baskets (36 percent) or hold onto the ball.

"I thought our defense was pretty good," Staley said. "There were some breakdowns, but I thought our defense was pretty good."

Notes:

Butler is the fourth different Clemson coach that Staley has faced while at South Carolina. Staley was 0-2 against Cristy McKinney, and then 3-0 against Itoro Coleman and 5-0 against Audra Smith.... Prior to the game, South Carolina unveiled a banner on the concourse recognizing leading the nation in attendance last season. It was the fourth consecutive season South Carolina led the nation in attendance. ... After wearing different home uniforms in the exhibition against Lander, South Carolina was back in its familiar whites against Clemson. ... Thornton came in averaging 21.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, but was held to 11 points on 5-of-17 shooting and just four rebounds. ... South Carolina signed two players yesterday, Laeticia Amihere and Brea Beel, and currently has the nation's top ranked recruiting class. Amihere had already told Staley she was committing, but it was kept secret so she could make an announcement. "I'm super elated, we got better," Staley said. "Hopefully we'll continue to get better with who's left. Our coaches have done an incredible job. We get told a lot of 'Nos,' but this year we're getting rewarded." ... Announced Attendance was 11,539. ... South Carolina returns to the court Sunday against #9 Maryland.

Related: South Carolina-Clemson Box Score