No. 22 South Carolina remained unbeaten on the season with a 68-45 win over Louisiana Tech Sunday afternoon.
The Gamecocks (2-0) started slowly as they were unable to solve Louisiana Tech's zone defense. South Carolina post players Aleighsa Welch, Alaina Coates, and Elem Ibiam were able to get good position inside, but the Lady Techsters made it hard for the Gamecock guards to pass the ball inside. When they were able throw the ball inside, the defense collapsed, swarming the ball and forcing bad shots. It didn't help matters that the Gamecocks were a miserable 8-22 (36.4 percent) from the free-throw line.
With only one day between games, South Carolina did not have time to study Louisiana Tech. The Techsters opened the season on Sunday, and with three starters suspended for the game, Dawn Staley lamented going into the game blind.
"I actually didn't anticipate them starting in a zone, probably because they only had so many athletes on their team," Staley said. "It felt like we hit a couple of shots and it was fool's gold after that. We started shooting some unexpected shots."
The fool's gold Staley referred to was the three point shot. The Gamecocks attempted just six shots behind the arc in the season opener, but surpassed that total midway through the first half. For the game, South Carolina shot 4-18 on threes (22.2 percent). The zone defense also slowed the tempo of the game, preventing South Carolina from getting the easy transition baskets they got in the season-opener.
"I think we got content with shooting jump shots," Welch said. "As the game went on we did a lot better job of finding our spots in the zone. We did a really good job of finding the high post, and finally in the second half we hit some 15-foot shots."
Louisiana Tech's defensive effort was not sustainable, however. The Lady Techsters dressed just eight players, and played just six for most of the game. They were unable to produce enough offense to keep up with the Gamecocks, and foul trouble eventually caught up to Louisiana Tech.
South Carolina opened the second half with a quick 6-0 run to take a 20-point lead and was able to impose its will much more effectively. The Gamecocks extended their defense, creating more fast break opportunities. They also dominated the offensive glass, pulling in 22 offensive rebounds leading to 19 second-chance points. Overall, the Gamecocks held a 47-29 rebounding edge.
"They took the air out of the ball," said Staley. "I thought us being able to rebound and push the ball down the floor and get some easy buckets really helped us."
Welch and Coates had 14 and 12 points respectively, and both had ten rebounds for double-doubles. Ibiam scored 11 points and Tiffany Mitchell had 10 to round out double-digit scorers.
NOTES: Coates got the start in place of Welch due to a clerical error when turning in the starting lineup. Welch checked in at the first whistle (18 seconds into the game) ... Through two games, South Carolina has yet to trail this season ... Staley blamed the poor free-throw shooting on former player Ashley Bruner, a notoriously weak foul shooter. "I thought we got rid of Ashley Bruner last year, and then she finds her way back on the stat sheet," Staley joked ... The Gamecocks return to action Thursday night against College of Charleston at 8 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports South.
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