WBB: South Carolina breezes past Florida
SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
The Gamecocks came out on fire and shut down the Gators for a 71-40 win Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena.
South Carolina opened the game with a 19-0, six-minute run that put Florida in a hole before it even broke a sweat. Florida missed its first seven shots and turned the ball over three times, while South Carolina made eight straight field goals. Tyasha Harris got things started with a three, and then Bianca Cuevas-Moore drilled one from the same spot. Harris followed with a pull-up jumper, and Florida had to call timeout, down 8-0 just two minutes into the game. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan added a block and a pair of baskets, as those three combined for all 19 points during the run.
“We just came out eager and ready to play,” Harris said. “Our threes were falling and jump shots, and we were pushing the ball in transition.”
Starting her first game since the 2017 national championship game, Cuevas-Moore made the move pay off. She corralled the opening tip, and was everywhere during the 19-0 run. She blocked a shot on the first defensive possession, drained a three for the Gamecocks’ second basket, and never looked back. Cuevas-Moore tallied eight points, two rebounds, an assist, a block, a steal, and a forced turnover in just the first six minutes of the game.
“I felt like against Florida and LSU it was probably a good time for her to get inserted into the starting lineup,” head coach Dawn Staley said, adding, “She’s a difference-maker for us.”
The Gators did not go away easily. They cut the lead to 12 early in the second quarter, and trailed by 14 at halftime. South Carolina looked sluggish to start the third quarter before Cuevas-Moore provided the spark to retake control.
Cuevas-Moore scored eight more points in the third quarter, quashing a brief Florida rally. Her transition three midway through the quarter seemed to deflate Florida and was part of a 9-0 run that saw Florida go scoreless for nearly five minutes. She finished with a season-high 16 points, two rebounds, an assist, block, and steal in just 17 minutes.
Harris hadn’t scored in double figures since the Temple game, but had 10 points in the first half. She also had six assists, just one shy of her season high for an entire game. Harris only played eight minutes in the second half, and finished with 10 points, eight assists, and three steals.
“I know it’s going to be up and down and I need to be more consistent,” Harris said. “My teammates have been helping me and keeping my confidence up.”
Herbert Harrigan only played 13 minutes due to foul trouble. She sat most of the second quarter, and Florida briefly held its own. Herbert Harrigan immediately made her impact felt after halftime, with a steal and mid-range jumper. But she picked up two fouls on the same possession and returned to the bench. Herbert Harrigan still finished with 11 points, a block, a steal, and a rebound.
South Carolina’s defense dominated Florida. The Gators shot just 25 percent from the floor and 20 percent (5-of-25) from three. They made just 15 baskets for the entire game. The Gators scored in single digits in three of the four quarters, and were outrebounded 45-31. The Gamecocks had nine steals and forced 15 turnovers.
Florida’s sharpshooter Funda Nakkasoglu entered the game averaging 18.2 points, second in the SEC, and making 3.4 threes on 48.4 percent shooting, both tops in the SEC. South Carolina held her to 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting from three. Staley said that after a sluggish start to practice Thursday, she restarted the practice and the team responded well. She knew then the defense would be focused.
“We had two really good days of practice,” Staley said. “I started the practice over and then they got it. In shootaround, they were really loose.”
Elysa Wesolek did not dress due to a sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative, but she sprained the same ankle in high school. Wesolek has seen only spot duty, averaging 3.0 points in 5.9 minutes in seven games, with a career-high of 10. … Several Gamecocks men’s basketball players attended the game, including freshmen T.J. Moss, who will redshirt this season after having surgery earlier this week. Moss was moving around on a scooter. … Alexis Jennings quietly had 13 points and eight rebounds. … LeLe Grissett chipped in seven points and nine rebounds off the bench. … Kiara Smith led Florida with 13 points. … The Gamecocks entered the game averaging a nation-leading 7.6 blocks per game, but had just three against the jump-shooting Gators. … Announced attendance was 10,353. … South Carolina returns to action Sunday at LSU.