South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks have strong showing in exhibition against Rutgers

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley after winning her first National Championship in 2017. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley after winning her first National Championship in 2017. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley and Rutgers Scarlet Knights head coach Coquese Washington put on an exhibition in honor of Nikki McCray-Penson. McCray-Penson, who passed away earlier this year from a battle with breast cancer, spent time at both South Carolina and Rutgers as an assistant coach.

The free-to-enter exhibition served as a fundraising effort for In the Middle, a charity that helps financially support women with breast cancer and their families.

However, the exhibition also served as a first opportunity for South Carolina basketball fans to get a sneak peek of what their favorite team might look like in the 2023-2024 season.

Despite losing five players to the 2023 WNBA Draft, two more to graduation, and one to the transfer portal, the Gamecocks are expecting to remain national contenders this season. Their first time on the court together in a “game” atmosphere did not disappoint as Dawn Staley’s team smacked Rutgers in the exhibition by a score of 100-55.

Carolina started a lineup of Te-Hina Paopao, Raven Johnson, Bree Hall, Sania Feagin, and Kamilla Cardoso. Paopao and Johnson shared the load running the offense (Johnson had 9 assists), and Cardoso was way too much for Rutgers to handle as she racked up 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and a block in just 19 minutes.

The bench players were no less effective as freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley scored 16 points, including 4 3-pointers (one from over 30 feet as the halftime buzzer sounded), and dished out five dimes. Chloe Kitts was very involved all over the floor as she scored 10 and pulled down 10 rebounds in 18 minutes playing her combo forward spot.

As a team, South Carolina shot 27 3-pointers, significantly more than their deep ball average from a season ago. The Gamecocks hit 10 for a 37% success rate, a very respectable number from behind the arc.

As it always has been during the Dawn Staley era, the Gamecock defense was suffocating. The halftime score was 51 to 14 before Coach Staley called off the dogs on the defensive end of the court. Johnson, Fulwiley, and true freshman guard Tessa Johnson combined for 11 steals, and Ashlyn Watkins, Kitts, and Cardoso totaled 8 swats.

The ball was moving for the South Carolina offense, as well. Extra passes were the norm with the Gamecocks’ double-barrelled point guard system (one that continues with Fulwiley in the game), and USC assisted on 32 of its 43 buckets (about 75%).

Every South Carolina basketball player got in for at least 11 minutes in the contest. The Gamecocks will play their first “real” game on November 6th in Paris, France against Notre Dame.


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