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WBB: Red-hot Gamecocks down Gators

SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

The Gamecocks put together their best offensive game of the season in a 96-77 win over Florida.

Dawn Staley made a pair of changes to the starting lineup, with Te’a Cooper not on the trip due to illness and Tyasha Harris coming off the bench. Destanni Henderson and Doniyah Cliney, the stars of the win over Georgia, took their place. The Gamecocks scored five points on their first possession, and quickly led 9-2. But the success was short-lived.

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Victaria Saxton each picked up two quick fouls, further disrupting the rotation, and South Carolina was out of sorts on both ends of the court. Florida took advantage, scoring 18 of the final 22 points in the first quarter to lead 25-18 after one.

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Chris Gillespie

Harris made a layup near the end of the first quarter, and took control in the second. She got the Gamecocks organized, dishing out six assists in the second quarter alone as the Gamecocks scored 30 points. Harris, Henderson, and Bianca Cuevas-Moore made three straight threes to tie the game at 32. Harris continued to set up Henderson and Cuevas-Moore as the Gamecocks made 4-8 from three and 11-18 from the floor and took a 48-40 lead into the half.

The third quarter belonged to Alexis Jennings. After a 7-0 Florida run cut the lead to two, Jennings made a spot-up three. That unlikely occurrence was the boost she needed, and she scored seven straight points. Jennings and Henderson combined for the first 13 South Carolina points in the quarter. After a jumper by Herbert Harrigan, Jennings scored another six straight, all on layups inside, as South Carolina took control of the game with a double-digit lead. Jennings finished with 17 points in the third quarter alone, a season high for South Carolina.

South Carolina continued to pour on points in the fourth quarter. The 96 points was the second highest scored this season, and the most in an SEC game. It shot a season-high 59 percent from the floor and SEC-high 47 percent from three. The 36 made baskets was also a season-high.

Jennings finished with a season-high 22 points and five rebounds, and got the luxury of only playing 25 minutes. Henderson finished with 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists, giving her four double figure scoring games in the last five. She is averaging 13.0 points per game during the span. Harris responded to coming off the bench with a double-double, her first of the season and the seventh of her career. She had 11 points, 10 assists, and four rebounds, setting a season-high in assists.

Florida got 19 points from Funda Nakkasoglu, and shot 43 percent. Florida actually outrebounded South Carolina 39-36, but it wasn’t enough to outscore South Carolina.

Notes:

South Carolina has beaten Florida 11 straight times, with the last loss coming in 2011. … Harris had started 86 of the Gamecocks’ last 87 games. She came off the bench once last season after missing practice because she was not feeling well. … Harris did start the second half, along with Nelly Perry, Cuevas-Moore, Henderson, and Jennings. … Jennings’ three-pointer early in the third quarter was her first of the season, and she is now 2-9 from three in her Gamecocks career. … Cuevas-Moore bounced back from her scoreless game against Georgia with 19 points. … Florida wore its pink Play 4 Kay uniforms. … All 12 available Gamecock players got into the game. … As good as the game was offensively, the Gamecocks struggled from the free throw line, making just 15-28. … South Carolina’s next game is Thursday against Kentucky.