No. 3/3 South Carolina earned its second win over a top-15 opponent in five days, defeating No. 14/15 Texas 76-67 Thursday night at the Frank Erwin Center behind a career-high 31 points from junior A’ja Wilson.
The forward’s dominant performance included her first double-double of the season, as she grabbed 12 rebounds to go along with a team-high four blocks. The Gamecocks moved to 6-0 with the victory, while the Longhorns dropped to 2-3 on the season.
Wilson, who finished the game 12-of-18 from the floor, delivered on the offensive end all night and tallied nine points in the fourth quarter to deny any chance of a Texas comeback.
After the Longhorns cut the Gamecock lead to 57-53, Wilson again provided a response with a minute gone in the final period. Her rebound off a missed shot by Carolina senior center Alaina Coates led to a crucial three-point play after she converted the put-back while being fouled. The scoring play made it 60-53, and her 10th field goal of the night kept the Gamecocks in front at 62-57 with 6:43 left to play.
Wilson continued to score at will down the stretch, and another put-back basket extended the lead to 68-61 and put the junior over the 30-point mark in a game for the first time in her career.
With Texas still in striking range, Wilson made her presence felt on the defensive end with a block on a Longhorn layup attempt with just over three minutes to play. A layup and two free throws from Carolina freshman guard Tyasha Harris made it 72-63 and officially put the game out of reach. Coates also played big down the stretch, coming down with five rebounds over the final 10 minutes. She finished with seven boards, and her sixth rebound of the night gave her 1,000 for her career.
Paced by Wilson, the Gamecocks shook off a slow start and cut the Texas lead to just one midway through the first quarter. The Hopkins native opened the scoring for Carolina with a jumper in the paint, and she converted a three-point play after receiving an entry pass from junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore to make it 9-8 Texas with 4:20 left in the period.
The teams traded baskets over the next minute, and the Gamecocks responded to another Texas field goal with back-to-back buckets from Wilson to even the score at 14. The forward knocked down a jumper from the left side before another nice pass from Cuevas-Moore led to a layup in transition by the junior. Wilson tallied 10 first-quarter points, and Carolina headed to the first break trailing 16-14 after Texas guard Lashann Higgs connected on a jumper at the buzzer.
Four straight points from Cuevas-Moore helped the Gamecocks even the score at 18 early in the second quarter, and another jumper by Wilson gave Carolina its first lead of the night at 20-18. The Longhorns answered back with a 7-1 run to make it 25-21 before Carolina freshman forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s put-back basket and two free throws from Wilson again pulled the Gamecocks even.
Wilson’s stellar first half continued with key plays on both ends of the court. She knocked down a jumper falling away to give Carolina a 29-27 lead, and her steal down low 36 seconds later led to two free throws by Harris after she was fouled going the other way. The two points from the line made it 33-27, and Carolina took a 33-30 advantage into the locker room. Wilson and Cuevas-Moore accounted for 25 points in the opening half for the Gamecocks, who closed the second period on a 12-5 run.
Gamecock junior guard Kaela Davis provided the scoring out of the break with a pair of 3-pointers during a back-and-forth pace in the early stages of the third quarter. Her first field goal from beyond the arc put Carolina in front 37-34, and another 3-pointer made it 40-35 with just under six minutes left in the period. The Longhorns and Gamecocks continued to trade baskets, and Texas responded to another Wilson layup with a bucket down low by center Kelsey Lang to even the score at 44. Carolina junior guard Allisha Gray’s layup gave the Gamecocks a 49-47 lead, and free throw shooting dictated the remainder of the quarter.
Two free throws from Harris pushed the advantage to 51-47, and Coates knocked down a pair from the line to make it 53-47 after the Longhorns missed two shots from the charity stripe on the other end. Coates returned to the line with less than a second left in the quarter after grabbing a rebound and forcing a foul on her jump shot attempt. She knocked down both free throw shots to give Carolina a 55-49 cushion heading into the last period.
Davis totaled 12 points and Harris chipped in 10 to join Wilson in double figures. Carolina shot 42.3 percent for the game and held a 34-30 advantage in points in the paint. The Gamecocks finished the contest with 30 made free throws and score 14 points off 17 Texas turnovers.
From USC Media Relations