Columbia, SC — Do the South Carolina Gamecocks have what it takes to win it all? On Sunday afternoon with a win against another top 10 opponent, they seemed intent on proving their worth.
Behind a stellar performance from senior Alaina Coates, the Gamecocks were able to rally from a poor first half performance to knock off the ninth-ranked UCLA Bruins , 66-57.
Coates recorded her 49th career double-double and was absolutely dominant with 11 points in the third quarter alone. She would finish the afternoon with 20 points and 14 rebounds.
In the first quarter, the Gamecocks managed to score only six points. But while their offense struggled to get rolling, their defense kept things from getting too out of hand. In the second quarter, South Carolina was able to tie the game at 26.
When all was said and done in the first half, however, Coates found herself on the floor for only nine minutes due to early fouls. Arguably, this is why South Carolina struggled so much to score inside, particularly against UCLA’s dominant Monique Billings.
Watching her team struggle on the bench undoubtedly made Coates hungry to come in and be the game changer and try and sway the momentum in any way that she could. In the third quarter, the Gamecocks would rebound to go on a 15-3 run. And while her 11 points played a major role, Coates also helped switch the momentum of the game with hustle plays.
She recorded three monstrous offensive rebounds in the third. Twice they led to put back scores, and once she was fouled and made both free throws. These sort of hustle plays are the kinds that successful teams expect and rely on from their post players night in and night out.
After the third quarter run from the Gamecocks, UCLA didn’t have enough gas in the tank to stage a comeback.
The most prevalent observation from this game comes in the form of dominant post players. While Coates was in foul trouble early on, it was all Billings for UCLA. But Coates’ dominance in the second half arguably sealed the game for South Carolina.
It is still much too early to talk about playoffs, seeding, and March Madness. However, if Coates can continue to dominate the inside for South Carolina, there’s no telling how far the Gamecocks can go from here.