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WBB: South Carolina runs past Missouri

SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

#19 South Carolina controlled #25 Missouri for a 79-65 win Monday night at Colonial Life Arena.

The Gamecocks used a pair of 8-0 runs in the first quarter to take a double-digit lead, and although the Tigers hung around, they never got closer than three possessions. Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan were the stars in the first half. Cuevas-Moore opened the scoring by drilling a wide-open three, then added a pair of steals and two more from long range for an 11-point burst.

“I’m feeling real good,” Cuevas-Moore said. “I’m just going out there playing hard and trying to do my best every night.”

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Chris Gillespie

Missouri cut the lead to seven three times, as close as it would get the rest of the game, but each time South Carolina went inside for an answer. First was a baseline jumper by Herbert Harrigan, two of her eight points in the second quarter. The next two times South Carolina went to Alexis Jennings, who first made a pair of free throws and then a short jumper. A 7-2 run to end the half, highlighted by an alley-oop from Cuevas-Moore to Destanni Henderson, the two smallest Gamecocks, pushed the halftime lead to 14.

The Gamecocks took advantage of turnovers and second chance points to build the lead. They had 17 points off nine turnovers and a 13-1 advantage in second chance points at halftime.

The second half was more of the same. Missouri strung together a pair of third quarter, 6-0 runs, but was never able to crack single digits, and deeper South Carolina wore Missouri down. The officials called the game tightly - too tightly for long stretches - hoping to nip any incidents in the bud. The result was foul trouble for both teams, but Missouri was hit harder as Sophie Cunningham was in foul trouble most of the game.

“We needed to play fast, we needed to speed them up and show them different types of defenses,” Gamecock coach Dawn Staley said. “We needed to make them execute a little bit faster than they want.”

The only time tensions began to flare, a quick whistle quieted things, but also gave South Carolina a boost. LeLe Grissett was fouled by Cunningham going for an offensive rebound. After the whistle, Akira Levy swiped at the ball, and Grissett angrily said something to Levy, and the officials called her for a technical. After a long discussion and a review, it was changed to a double technical, which seemed like the appropriate call. Grissett fouled out as a result, but the Gamecocks seemed vindicated and energized, and a 13-point lead quickly became 18.

Cuevas-Moore hit another three early in the fourth to kick-start a 9-0 run that stretched the lead to 24, and Staley called off the dogs. At that point, Cunningham had just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. She scored 14 points over the final five minutes of garbage time. She finished with 24 points, but it was an ineffective output and like last season was booed every time she touched the ball and seemed rattled by the crowd and the Gamecocks.

“Sophie’s pretty strong-minded,” Missouri head coach Robin Pingeton said. “I don’t think it affected her.”

While the first half belonged to Cuevas-Moore and Herbert Harrigan, the second half belonged to Tyasha Harris. She was 0-of-6 shooting and scoreless in the first half, but went off for 16 in the second. Harris admitted that her confidence was low at halftime, but said that her teammates and Staley helped pick her up.

“She was 0-of-6 at halftime,” Staley said. “I told her if you’re 0-of-6 at the end of this game, beep-beep-beep. You fill in the blanks.”

For the game, South Carolina had an 11-point edge in points off turnovers, a 12-point edge in second chance points, and a six rebound advantage. Herbert Harrigan tied Harris for the team-high with 16 points, and Jennings and Cuevas-Moore each had 14.

Amihere is here

The first member of South Carolina’s top-ranked recruiting class is officially on campus. Latecia Amihere (pronounced “uh-mare”), the #10 overall recruit, enrolled at South Carolina for the Spring 2019 semester. The first Canadian woman to dunk in a game, Amihere suffered a season-ending injury that ended her high school career. Amihere will not play for South Carolina this season, but will rehab with South Carolina’s medical staff. Staley said that be enrolling early, Amihere will benefit from having home, school, and rehab all in one place. If she had stayed home she would have had a lot of travel involved in getting to all three.

In a statement, Staley said, "It was definitely hard to hear that Laeticia had her senior season cut short, but she is a person who makes the best of any situation so we're excited that she's decided to join our program earlier than expected," Staley said. "I have to give credit to Laeticia, her family and our athletics department and University staff for embracing this idea and working to put the pieces in place so quickly to make it possible for her to get here this week."

Notes:

Before the game, Missouri announced that freshman forward Grace Berg would transfer. Berg had played in all 19 games this season, averaging 3.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. Berg was the #37 recruit in the country last year. … Laysia Cooper, one of the best players in South Carolina despite only being a freshman, attended the game. She is a 2022 recruit. … Elysa Wesolek once again did not dress due to a high-ankle sprain. … Before the game, the teams met in a circle at midcourt for the national anthem. It was intended as a show of peace after the discord last year. “We wanted to show unity and show respect for the game,” Pingeton said. “I thought it was good.” Staley said, “That was bigger than the game itself. We wanted to show the crowd and the media that how it was played and what was said last year is in the past.” … A'ja Wilson sat in on Staley’s post game press conference for no particular reason. She was asked what is different that she likes about watching games as a fan. "I like not being cussed out anymore. At least by Dawn." Staley shot her a look and said, "Oh, now I'm 'Dawn?'" … Announced attendance was 12,004. They won free Chick-fil-A when Cierra Porter missed two fourth quarter free throws. … South Carolina has the rest of the week off before hosting Vanderbilt next Monday.