No. 6/6 South Carolina notched an 83-61 victory over Clemson Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena behind double-doubles from senior center Alaina Coates and junior forward A’ja Wilson. The win secured a point in the 2016-17 Palmetto Series for the Gamecocks, who now sit at 8-1 on the year. With the loss, Clemson fell to 8-2 this season.
“That’s our game plan," Dawn Staley said. "That’s what has been our bread and butter for the past few seasons. It’s not the only way, and we do have to take some outside shots to open up that zone. I haven’t handcuffed any of our perimeter players. I think our post players do a great job at looking at their partner down there. That’s something that we’ve drilled over and over again. That’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Carolina boasted a 10-point advantage at the break and established firm control of the game after going on a 12-2 run in the third quarter. Coates triggered the crucial stretch, tallying four points to go along key plays on both ends of the court during the run. The senior finished the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds to go along with three assists and a game-high four blocks. Wilson led all scorers with 20 points while chipping in 10 boards and four assists. Junior guard Kaela Davis added 17 points, converting two 3-pointers in the win.
Thursday’s contest opened with a back-and-forth pace, as neither team was able to create much separation in the first five minutes. After a put-back basket from Coates and bucket inside from Wilson in transition, Davis knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 9-6 Carolina with 5:46 left in the first period. A 3-pointer from the opposite corner by junior guard Allisha Gray pushed the advantage to 16-8, and the Gamecocks opened up a double-digit lead when Cliney connected on a free throw to make it 22-12 late in the quarter. The Tigers scored the final four points of the period to get within six of the lead at 22-16 before Coates capped off a productive first 10 minutes with a block to deny a last-second Clemson layup. The center finished the quarter with eight points, three rebounds and three blocks.
Carolina’s efforts on the glass at the offensive end continued to pay dividends, and put-back buckets from sophomore guard Doniyah Cliney, Wilson and Coates gave the Gamecocks a 31-23 cushion with just over six minutes left in the first half. Another jumper down low from Wilson on Carolina’s next possession made it an 8-0 Gamecock scoring run that turned a 25-23 lead into a 33-23 advantage midway through the second period. The Gamecocks used their size in the frontcourt to maintain a double-digit cushion for the rest of the half, with Wilson and Coates both registering baskets inside in the final three minutes of the quarter. Both players headed into the locker room in double figures for Carolina, which led 38-28 at the break.
After trading baskets with the Tigers for the first few minutes of the third quarter, the Gamecocks scored in a variety of ways to take control of the game and make it 55-34 with 4:41 remaining in the period. A jumper inside from Coates sparked the 12-2 run, and Davis knocked down a tough jumper from the right side on Carolina’s next trip down the floor to stretch the advantage to 47-32. Coates remained the difference for the next couple of minutes, and another basket inside from the senior made it 51-34. The Irmo, S.C, native showed off her athleticism 25 seconds later when she caught a pass in transition and fed freshman forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan while falling out of bounds to set up a jumper for the forward. Cliney provided the exclamation point on the pivotal scoring run, coming up with a steal and basket in transition to hand Carolina the 21-point cushion near the midpoint of the quarter. The Gamecocks withstood a response by Clemson behind a basket from Wilson with 1:45 left in the third and two free throws from Herbert Harrigan, and Carolina entered the final period in front 59-43.
Davis delivered a bulk of the scoring for Carolina in the opening stages of the fourth quarter, starting with a 3-pointer with 7:26 left to make it 66-47. The guard connected on a layup less than 30 seconds later, and her sixth field of the night pushed the lead back to 20 at 73-53 before the final media timeout of the game. Wilson also saw a strong finish to the contest, and a pair of three-point plays gave the junior her third 20-point game of the season. The Gamecock defense gave the Tigers fits down the stretch, as Clemson was held without a field goal for the final 4:41 of the game.
Carolina sported a 49-30 rebound advantage and shot 46.3 percent from the floor for the game. The Gamecocks, who totaled 19 offensive rebounds, tallied 50 points in the paint, including 21 off second chances. Five players recorded a block in the game for Carolina, which finished with 11 swats and 13 fast-break points.
FROM USC MEDIA RELATIONS