WBB: Gamecocks top Lady Vols
SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
The Gamecocks built a big first half lead, and then held off a second half rally to beat Tennessee 82-67, Sunday afternoon in Knoxville.
South Carolina learned before the game that it would be without starting guard Te’a Cooper, who sprained her ankle early in the loss to Kentucky. Instead of just replacing Cooper in the lineup, Dawn Staley opted to go with wholesale changes. She went with four guards, including Bianca Jackson and Doniyah Cliney, who have both gone stretches this season where they barely played.
The move to a smaller, quicker lineup paid off, as the Gamecocks ran circles around the Lady Vols in the first half. Bianca Cuevas-Moore, the smallest, quickest player on the court was repeatedly able to beat the Lady Vols to the basket or step back for a spot-up three. She had 12 in the first quarter, including seven during a 13-0 run to end the first quarter.
South Carolina led 27-11 after the first quarter, thanks to seven forced turnovers and 12 fast break points. Just as importantly, it outrebounded Tennessee by three. South Carolina stretched the lead to 20 in the second quarter, but Tennessee started to settle down toward halftime.
The Lady Vols, who outrebound opponents by an average of 10 rebounds per game, got back to their basics to chip away at the Gamecocks’ lead: rebounding and protecting the ball. After the Gamecocks got 15 points off 12 Lady Vol turnovers in the first half, they got no points off just one turnover in the third quarter. The Lady Vols also outrebounded the Gamecocks 28-17 in the second and third quarters, and trimmed the lead to nine going into the fourth.
While the small lineup got South Carolina the lead, when it needed a basket, Staley went inside to Alexis Jennings. She scored to open the fourth, and then the teams traded baskets. Back-to-back Tennessee baskets then cut the lead to seven, so South Carolina went to Jennings again. This time, she drew a double team, and kicked out to a wide-open Cliney for three. Zaay Green made a pair of free throws, but then Jennings scored again. The teams traded baskets again, and then Cuevas-Moore, who had been relatively quiet in the second half, delivered the dagger with her fourth three-pointer of the game.
Cuevas-Moore finished with a career-high 28 points and four steals. Cliney tied her career-high with 16 points and added six rebounds, seeming to have found a niche as an undersized power forward. Jennings added 15 points and seven rebounds.
Tyasha Harris set a new career-high with 14 assists, and had her second double-double of the season with 11 points, plus seven rebounds. … Staley played just eight players, and Destanni Henderson played only two minutes, while Victaria Saxton did not even register a full minute, playing the final 26 seconds. … Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, the other reserve who played, was very effective. She had eight points (four in the fourth quarter) and five rebounds, and after notching just four blocks in the last six games, had four blocks in the first 14 minutes of the game. … Tennessee finished the game with a 44-35 rebounding edge. … South Carolina had 17 points off 16 Tennessee turnovers, while Tennessee had just three points off six South Carolina turnovers. … The win was just the third all-time for South Carolina in Knoxville. … South Carolina returns to the court Thursday at Auburn.