Lexington, KY-- After a two-point loss to Tennessee on Monday, No. 4 South Carolina had something to prove as they faced off against No. 25 Kentucky on Thursday.
The Gamecocks defeated the Wildcats 75-63 behind the play of their standout post players junior A’ja Wilson and senior Alaina Coates.
Both Coates and Wilson are commanding figures, standing at 6’4” and 6’5”, respectively. Anyone who has watched any South Carolina basketball this season knows how well they continue to play together.
South Carolina has perhaps the best high-low game in the country because of Coates and Wilson’s ability to read their defenders. If one is double teamed on one block, the other one is almost always making a dive from the high post to the opposite block for an easy pass and score.
And when they play a shorter team like Kentucky, they never falter, and continue to go to work and dominate down low. Coates and Wilson each finished the night with 20 points.
From tipoff, Wilson played exceptionally well at both ends of the court. On the defensive end she altered shots and dominated the boards, recording nine rebounds. For as dominant as Wilson was on the defensive end, Coates one-upped her. She grabbed nine boards before halftime and a whopping 18 total. Sixteen of those were on the defensive end of the court.
Coates’ ability to rebound in traffic allowed her to pad her stats tonight. Whenever any Wildcats were around her, it was practically no contest for any loose ball or rebound. As a whole, South Carolina dominated Kentucky on the boards out rebounding them 40-29.
Perhaps the biggest way Coates and Wilson alter games, however, is their hustle play. Coates especially is the quintessential hustle player, diving after loose balls, out of bounds, and crashing hard to the boards on every play. And when a post player hustles that hard, its hard or anyone else on the court to have a reason not to.
As a result of Coates and Wilson, South Carolina found themselves dominating in nearly every statistical category against Kentucky. They shot 50 percent from the field, compared to Kentucky’s 34 percent. They grabbed 30 defensive rebounds, while Kentucky had 18. And perhaps the most prolific defensive stat, the Gamecocks had eight blocks compared to the Wildcats zero.
After the first quarter, South Carolina was only up by five, however, they were already outrebounding Kentucky 12-7. Going into halftime they found themselves up by 19, with Wilson and Coates combining for 18 and standout guard Allisha Gray chipping in 8. To end the third, Kentucky would go on a 10-0 run. Makayla Epps would do everything she could for Wildcats , scoring 23 to try and keep them in the game, but it ultimately wouldn’t be enough.
South Carolina is an all-around great team who plays unselfish basketball; however, it’s their two post players who play so well together and are unafraid to do grunt work, that make them the real deal.