Columbia, SC — South Carolina versus Clemson was a rivalry game in more ways than just location, as No. 6 USC won 83-61.
USC head coach Dawn Staley and Clemson head coach Audra Smith go way back: they were teammates at University of Virginia from 1989-’92 where they appeared in three NCAA Final Fours and the 1991 championship game.
“I’m happy for their program,” said Staley. “Although they’re our rival, I want to see her do well and I want to see the teams in South Carolina do well.”
The Gamecoacks looked methodical, choosing shots that demonstrated maturity from a dominant-laden upperclassmen team. Gamecock center Alaina Coates and forward A’ja Wilson were the difference-makers.
“We’re the best high-low duo in the nation,” said Coates.
No kidding. Coates had 19 points, ten rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Coates showed glimmers of greatness with her spin move to a layup at 3:17 in the first. Wilson had 20 points, ten rebounds, and two blocks.
For a team with not a single senior, the Tigers took audacious shots, and then on defense, they failed to protect the rim, dangerously giving USC possession and fast-break points, of which the Gamecocks had 13.
At ACC Media, Smith discussed her roster needing experience. Now ten games into the season, Smith said, “They know that they need everybody and they need each other to be successful. That part has been huge in terms of our growth as a team,”
The Gamecocks led Clemson 38-28 at the bottom of the half.
In the third, USC played with just as much energy and maturity as it brought in the first, but the Tigers looked shaky. The Gamecocks plays on its toes: Doniyah Cliney stole the ball at 4:44 for a fast-break layup just as Alexis Carter was scanning for a quick screen, making the score 55-34.
USC rested its top players in the fourth but continued to dominate, showing just how deep its roster goes: Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s block at 1:26 on Alexis Carter’s layup had the crowd going wild.
South Carolina hosts UCLA (8-1) on Dec. 18 to cap its three-game home series, and Clemson hosts South Carolina State (3-4).