Put it this way – when they put two halves together, they’ll be darned near unstoppable.
Not that they were complaining after a 73-47 rout to improve to 2-0 in the SEC.
South Carolina hammered Auburn Thursday for its first conference road win of the season, riding a red-hot first-quarter burst from Kaela Davis and a strong second half from Bianca Cuevas-Moore. The Tigers’ signature pressing defense was an afterthought in the first quarter as Davis scorched the nets for 19 points, including five 3-pointers, and USC (12-1, 2-0 SEC) led 29-6.
But Davis was in foul trouble in the second and third quarters, and the Gamecocks slowed with their bigs contained by the Tigers’ zone. The lead never dropped below 14 points, though, and when Davis returned, USC knew it could name the final score.
“I thought we had a little lull in the second quarter,” coach Dawn Staley said. “When a player comes in as hot as Kaela was in the first quarter, you want to get her the ball and get as many touches as possible. Then when we didn’t have her services in the second quarter, you kind of stall a little bit, you don’t know where to go, especially when they were taking our inside game away.”
The Tigers (11-5, 1-1) never got into a shooting groove despite having several open chip shots in the middle of the game, finishing at 27.6 percent and Brandy Montgomery, normally good for 16 points per game, ending with three. USC wasn’t at its best, either, A’ja Wilson posting a double-double but Alaina Coates scoring a mere five with six rebounds.
Some of that was by design. Davis came out firing and hitting, so USC wisely got her the ball. Then like Staley said, she suddenly wasn’t there.
The Gamecocks struggled to find an open shot as more of their 15 turnovers mounted, but Wilson controlled some of the gaps and USC was never in danger of yielding a major run. Davis only scored two more points, ending with 21, but Cuevas-Moore found her range with five 3-pointers.
Cuevas-Moore had a season-high 19 after again backing up Ty Harris at point guard. The junior was replaced in the starting lineup two games ago.
“I think I embraced it well,” she said. “I decided to play my role, I guess.”
Staley will always prefer to get the ball inside but when the 3-pointers are hitting, why not keep taking them? USC finished with 14.
Two busloads of Gamecock fans attended and saw Staley clinch her 200th win at USC. She’s in second on the all-time wins list, 31 games behind Nancy Wilson.
“I think you reflect on the players that you had to get you to this point, the coaching staff,” Staley said. “We try to do things the right way at South Carolina and when you do, the basketball gods pay you back in getting 200 wins.”
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