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No. 5 South Carolina strikes first, steamrolls UGA

South Carolina proved they are the No. 1 seed for a reason as they, defeated Georgia 72-48 to continue their pursuit of a third straight SEC conference tournament title.

NCAA Womens Basketball: South Carolina at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Greenville, SC — South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson’s smile and dance moves could be seen from any seat in the arena. She had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. Allisha Gray also made her presence known, with 17 points and four rebounds. The game was a Gamecock offensive display, even when they missed, they pulled down the rebounds to try again.

Wilson came out in the first quarter doing what everyone expected her to do: playing as a relentless leader. She was dominant in the paint and forcing fouls. Mackenzie Engram was sent to the bench with two early fouls for Georgia. The Lady Bulldogs had five turnovers in the first quarter alone, enabling the Gamecocks to pull ahead and end the quarter up by 10.

“The first 5 minutes are the biggest minutes of the game,” said Wilson. “We came out with a lot of energy and that’s when we play our best.”

In the second period, the momentum seemed to stay with South Carolina. A 6-0 run set the crowd off, and Georgia looked over-matched in all phases. The Gamecocks continued pushing the tempo and prohibiting the Lady Bulldogs from settling in their offense.

It wasn’t just Wilson that went off in the first 20 minutes of play though, as Gray also had reached double digit scoring before intermission. The Gamecocks ended the half with a commanding 42-16 lead.

“Having played Georgia two other times, we had their tendencies down pat, and had them relying on playing a broken play,” said coach Dawn Staley. “We kept it at the pace we needed to win.”

At the half the Lady Bulldogs were shooting 6-31 from the field, a mere 19.4 percent, which wasn’t going to cut it against the strong Gamecocks.

South Carolina came right out the gate and decided to push the gas pedal a little more, just what coach Dawn Staley was looking for. Wilson came out in beast mode, and towered over everyone with tenacious play. Georgia’s offense was getting a little more stagnant, and they just couldn’t seem to connect. The Gamecocks inside presence was just too much for the Lady Bulldogs, and they pulled ahead even more, up by 29 points.

Georgia’s senior Pachis Roberts clearly didn’t want this to be her last game. She was still pushing for her team to get back within striking distance. Roberts made her third three-pointer of the game in the fourth quarter, but the Gamecocks retaliated twice as hard.

The Gamecocks started to slow their offense, and held the ball until the final buzzer, sealing their huge defeat.

The Lady Bulldogs had a season low of 28.1 percent from the field, with 17 turnovers.

South Carolina will now move on to the semi-finals Sat., March 4 to face the winner of the Kentucky vs. Alabama game.