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WBB: South Carolina pulls away from Vanderbilt in second half

SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

South Carolina used a strong second half defense to pull away from Vanderbilt for an 80-69 win Monday night at Colonial Life Arena.

South Carolina started the game fast, and led 15-5 less than three minutes into the game. But the fast pace also helped Vanderbilt get back into the game. The Gamecocks shot 69 percent in the first quarter, but also allowed Vanderbilt to shoot 53 percent and chip away at the lead, pulling within four by the start of the second quarter. Nelley Perry banked in a fade-away 15 footer to start the second, and then South Carolina went cold.

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Bianca Cuevas-Moore follows through on a three-pointer Monday night vs. Vanderbilt.
Chris Gillespie

The Gamecocks missed 11 straight field goal attempts. They missed them in every way imaginable, from point blank layups to contested threes, good shots and bad shots. Meanwhile, the Commodores kept on shooting, and making baskets. Vanderbilt went on a 12-0 run to take the lead, which it carried into halftime along with 53 percent shooting. And when they missed, they got the offensive rebound. The Commodores had seven offensive rebounds (and eight second chance points) off just 15 missed shots in the first half.

“We rushed, we didn’t have any rebounding when we shot the ball,” Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley said. “It was a little bit too much one on one play and more unpredicted shots that left us with no rebounders.”

Staley’s message to the team at halftime was about defense, and South Carolina was dialed in for the second half. Four of Vanderbilt’s first six possessions ended in turnovers as South Carolina retook the lead.

“We picked up full-court pressing early and we stayed in it,” guard Te’a Cooper said. “We were forcing a lot of turnovers. Bianca Cuevas was getting us going on the defensive end. She makes everyone keep going.”

In the second half, South Carolina held Vanderbilt to 38 percent shooting and gave up just 24 points (including an 8-0 game ending run after South Carolina had emptied the bench), after allowing 40 in the first half.

South Carolina forced 19 Vanderbilt turnovers and scored 20 points off of them. After being outrebounded by six in the first half, the Gamecocks ended up with a 36-34 edge, and held Vanderbilt to just four offensive rebound in the second half.

“We stayed longer stretches with our starters because when we subbed in the first half we lost that battle,” Staley said. “We wanted to make sure we got command of the game, and they were playing well together. You want that unit that’s playing well together to get the majority of the minutes.”

The Gamecocks got a balanced scoring effort, with four players in double figures. Cooper led South Carolina with 18. Alexis Jennings and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan each scored 15 points, stretching Herbert Harrigan’s streak of consecutive games in double digits to seven. Tyasha Harris had one of her best games of the season with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

Notes:

It was Dollar Dog night at Colonial Life Arena, and the entire game had a dog theme. Hot dogs were on sale for a dollar. The Flying Houndz Frizbee Dogs provided the halftime entertainment, and during a timeout students dressed in dog costumes crawled through a canine agility course, monitored by “ruff-eree” Champ Staley. It was Champ’s first in-game appearance. … South Carolina finished the game shooting 50 percent from the floor. … Bianca Cuevas-Moore scored nine points, including a fourth quarter three that put South Carolina up 19. … Herbert Harrigan added three blocks. … LeaLea Carter led all scorers with 20 points. … Freshman Victaria Saxton had four points and a game-high eight rebounds. … Sophomore Bianca Jackson did not play due to a muscle strain. She should be ready to play Thursday against Kentucky. … Freshman Elysa Wesolek, who had been sidelined with a high ankle sprain, played her first game since December 21 against Temple. She had one rebound in three minutes. … The announced attendance was 11,166. … South Carolina’s next game is Thursday at Kentucky.