At Ruston, La., South Carolina won its first road game of the season and breezed past an early hurdle.
The Gamecocks beat Louisiana Tech 82-58 on its home court on Monday, completing a short turnaround from a season-opener in Columbia three days ago and answering a significant question. USC's five newcomers had to perform right away in a difficult environment and did so, stepping in to help clinch the Gamecocks' win over the Lady Techsters (0-2) in the first game in the series in 29 years.
USC (2-0) will play two straight home games before departing for a tournament in the Virgin Islands, then play another home contest before the second and final non-conference road game of the season. The Gamecocks will finish the non-SEC slate with four straight home games.
Outside of a Dec. 19 game hosting No. 4 Stanford, USC should be favored in all of its remaining games. Getting past the Techsters was key toward building a hefty win total before SEC competition.
Spurred by the contributions of Ashley Bruner (eight points in nine first-half minutes) and Ieasia Walker (nine first-half points), USC built a sizable lead and held off the pesky Techsters, led by Lulu Perry (16 points). The Gamecocks battled past foul trouble on Bruner and Aleighsa Welch to finally break out its transition offense, and also to unleash its 3-point shooting.
USC was 0-for-14 from the 3-point line in its season-opener against Elon, but Walker stroked three in the first half to break the jinx. USC had three straight steals in the first half to set the defensive tone, and swarmed the glass throughout the game.
Freshman Tiffany Mitchell hit back-to-back shots to open a 31-14 first-half lead, and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Junior Wilka Montout (6-foot-3), another newcomer, answered a mini-spurt from Louisiana Tech by canning a 3-pointer to make it a 15-point game with 10 minutes to play, and USC blew the Lady Techsters off the floor thereafter.
Bruner led all scorers with 17, Welch had 14 and eight rebounds and Montout broke out with 12 points, eight in the final surge. Walker finished with 10 points and eight assists. The Gamecocks won the rebounding game 43-26, 16 on the offensive end.
The Gamecocks return home to face Savannah State at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
NOTE: Sophomore Elem Ibiam took an elbow to the head in practice and sat out of the game for precautionary reasons, leaving the Gamecocks with nine healthy players. Ibiam said she was fine but the coaches decided to hold her out. She should be ready for the next game.