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WBB: South Carolina drops Dayton

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

South Carolina overcame a brutal offensive start to beat Dayton 65-55 Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks were led by a season-high 24 points from Tyasha Harris.

In the first quarter, the Gamecocks’ shooting was as cold as the frigid temperatures in Columbia, with both dipping down into the 20s. The Gamecocks missed nine of their first 10 shots, including three straight layups, and fell behind by 13 midway through the first quarter.

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Coach Staley’s team finally got their shots to start falling, which allowed them to set their defense. They went on a 12-0 run to erase most of the deficit, forcing 10 consecutive misses from the Flyers.

The game was tied at 30 at halftime, and South Carolina led by just two after three quarters. But South Carolina imposed its will inside, and wore Dayton down. The Gamecocks outrebounded Dayton 24-10 in the second half (and 41-30 for the game), and outscored Dayton 14-6 in the paint.

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Chris Gillespie

“We pushed tempo,” Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley said. “We had to speed the game up. They were picking us apart in the early part of the game because we weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be.”

Harris took control in the third quarter, scoring 12 of her 24 in the third quarter alone. She scored on three-pointers, layups, and floaters, and controlled the tempo of the game.

“I saw that I had the opportunity to take over and be more assertive,” Harris said. “I’ve got to pick and choose my battles.”

Fouls and fatigue caught up to Dayton in the fourth quarter, and the Flyers were held to just four points. Dayton missed its first seven shots of the quarter and was just 1-of-13 from the floor, with most coming up short. Dayton’s leading scorer, Julia Chandler (15 points), played just eight minutes in the second half because of foul trouble, fouling out with 3:48 to play.

South Carolina attempted 26 free throws for the game, 18 in the second half. If it had shot better than 61.5 percent, it probably would have put the game away sooner. LeLe Grissett, who got a surprise start, finished with eight points and nine rebounds, tying her career-high. She said the key to the defensive improvement in the second half was simple: communication.

“We just talked to each other,” Grissett said. “We were like, ‘If you need help just say something.’ Communication was the big key.”

“We didn’t allow them easy looks,” Staley said. “We didn’t allow them to drive through our defense. We just attacked more.”

Nelly Perry added 10 points, three rebounds, and two blocks off the bench, and had her best game of the season. It wasn’t just the plays she made, but when she made them, including a three-pointer at the end of the shot clock with 91 seconds left that put the Gamecocks up eight points.

Notes:

South Carolina used its fourth different starting lineup this season. Grissett received her first start of the season. … Te’a Cooper, coming off a career-high 31 points, went 0-of-6 from the floor and only played three minutes in the second half. Staley said that Cooper is a little banged up, but would not elaborate. … Dayton’s four points in the fourth quarter tied for the second fewest allowed in a quarter by the Gamecocks. It was the eighth time South Carolina has allowed only four points in a quarter. … Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had four blocks, tying her career-high. She also had nine points and six rebounds and was a key player in the second half. … Alexis Jennings had nine points and three rebounds. The numbers were modest, but she had a major impact beyond her stats. … South Carolina only had three assists on 23 made baskets. … Former Gamecock Araion Bradshaw scored 11 points and had six rebounds. She seemed inspired early but faded down the stretch. … Announced attendance was 10,423. … South Carolina returns to action Sunday against Baylor.

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