Dawn Staley and her South Carolina basketball team traveled to Paris, France, the home of the original Notre Dame, to take on the school that was named after the iconic cathedral.
Notre Dame and head coach Niele Ivey came into the international season opener a little shorthanded. Olivia Miles is not quite back from a knee injury and KK Bransford was also unavailable.
The game tipped off with the Gamecocks playing five new starters after losing so much talent off of last year’s roster. Te-Hina Paopao, Raven Johnson, Bree Hall, Chloe Kitts, and Kamilla Cardoso started, a bit of a deviation from the lineup that saw Sania Feagin start in the exhibition against Rutgers in place of Kitts.
There appeared to be some nerves early for the new-look Gamecocks as Raven Johnson nearly threw the ball away, Chloe Kitts passed up an open free throw line jumper (leading to a turnover), and Kitts committed a foul all in the first twenty seconds of the game.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 5-0 lead as the Gamecocks struggled to hold onto the ball (two turnovers, two dropped rebounds, and a tie-up). Raven Johnson ended the scoring drought with a confident-looking jumper, and on the next offensive possession, her backcourt running mate Te-Hina Paopao knocked down a 3.
A few stops later (including a big Kamilla Cardoso rejection), and the game was tied 7-7. Johnson got shaken up a bit after biting on a pump fake from Sonia Citron and hitting the deck, but she remained in the game and hit a long-range jumper to re-tie the game at 10-10.
MiLaysia Fulwiley was the first sub off the bench (came in for Kitts), and she was a spark immediately, picking up a rebound in traffic and pushing it up the floor where she assisted Kamilla Cardoso.
Notre Dame took an 18-14 lead after a big Hannah Hidalgo 3-pointer. A couple of high-effort plays (a Sania Feagin offensive rebound and score and a Te-Hina Paopao steal and fast break bucket) tied it up again. Paopao stayed hot with a driving make on the next possession and gave the Gamecocks the lead with an impressive display of ballhandling that led to an assist to Feagin.
The quarter ended at 25-24 in favor of Notre Dame with the final scoring play coming off of an impressive fast break from Ashlyn Watkins in which she took a rebound the whole length of the floor and found Feagin for an easy bucket.
A turnover opened the second period for South Carolina, and Citron outhustled the Gamecocks down the floor for a score. Over the next several minutes, it was Dawn Staley’s South Carolina basketball squad that was the more active team.
A couple of nice defensive plays from MiLaysia Fulwiley and Raven Johnson led to two fast-break scores for Johnson. A high-effort offensive board and post make from Ashlyn Watkins followed, and the Gamecocks led 31-27.
MiLaysia Fulwiley showed some special start-and-stop acceleration and quickness as she wiggled her way to the cup for another score. The lead grew to 38-29 after the Carolina run swelled to 14-2 after a Fulwiley 3-pointer.
The freshman continued wow-ing the Parisian audience as she had the whole building on its feet after an impressive behind-the-back fake and finish in traffic. A Bree Hall 3-pointer and Chloe Kitts and-one followed as the Gamecocks started to show their dominance. 48-31 was the score after a Chloe Kitts bucket brought the USC run to an impressive 24-4 right as the half ended.
The third quarter started much like the second ended. South Carolina basketball was dominating, now on the back of Kamilla Cardoso who went on a personal 8-0 run. Freshman Irish guard Hannah Hidalgo continued to do her darnedest to keep her team in the game after that, scoring two quick buckets.
With the score standing at 60-40, the Carolina posts put together a ridiculous defensive possession in which they tallied four separate blocks (two from Cardoso, one from Kitts, and one from Watkins). A Fulwiley steal to a Cardoso and-one pushed the margin to 65-42, and then Cardoso followed it up by throwing a Kylee Watson layup into the stands.
The 3rd quarter continued with the same dominant play from the ladies in garnet and black. A Sahnya Jah layup (her first points as a Gamecock) off a nice Raven Johnson feed made things 76-49 as the buzzer sounded.
Some back-and-forth basketball began the final quarter before a small run saw the CourtCocks surpass the 30-point lead threshold. It was strictly cruise control from that point on as Sania Feagin and a group of first-year players held their own against a mixture of starters and bench players from Notre Dame.
Tessa Johnson scored her first point for Coach Staley at the free throw line, and the clock ticked the final minutes away after two more Fulwiley layups pushed the USC point total to triple digits. Just down the street from Notre Dame Cathedral, South Carolina basketball dominated Notre Dame University 100-71.