South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks win ridiculous turnover-filled slog against top-11 Utah

South Carolina basketball newcomer Te-Hina Paopao had a nice debut in garnet and black. Mandatory Credit: Stephane Mantey/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina basketball newcomer Te-Hina Paopao had a nice debut in garnet and black. Mandatory Credit: Stephane Mantey/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports /
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South Carolina basketball returned to their high-scoring ways last game out by putting up another 100-point game against Morgan State. On Sunday, the 8-0 Gamecocks traveled up to Connecticut to participate in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase.

The Utah Utes were waiting for the Gamecocks, and fans were excited for the big-time matchup. Not only is Utah a good team, but they also have one of the country’s top players on their roster in forward Alissa Pili.

For the second time this season, South Carolina basketball was rocking their “Ode to Cocky” white uniforms. The jerseys are white with standard garnet and black trim, but some yellow is added to match USC’s famous mascot.

The top-11 matchup began with a torrid pace as the two teams started the game 8-10 combined from the field. The quick 11-7 South Carolina basketball lead came in just 3 minutes, but the shooting slowed down with a 1-5 stretch from the two units.

The game eventually evened out from a shot-making perspective, and at the 4:27 mark in the 1st quarter, Carolina led 16-14. Star post players Kamilla Cardoso (7) and Alissa Pili (5) led the fast start for South Carolina and Utah, respectively.

An 8-0 run followed the media timeout as MiLaysia Fulwiley and Ashlyn Watkins provided a quick spark. The Gamecocks were now 10-12 from the field.

The USC lead grew to 11 (27-16) on a 30-foot 3-pointer from MiLaysia Fulwiley, but she gave the ball right back to Utes. Another turnover from Utah and a missed shot from each team ended the quarter without another score.

A poor start to the 2nd period saw Pili take over. with a personal 14-7 run, bringing her team within 4 at 34-30. Mercifully for the Gamecocks, she picked up her third foul of the 1st half and had to come out of the game.

The turnovers and missed shots piled up for both teams, and neither team made a shot from the floor for over 5 minutes. When the dust settled from the ugly stretch of basketball, the score stood 38-34 after a Sakima Walker offensive rebound and putback ended the field goal drought with one minute left before halftime.

Fulwiley moved her box score number to 3-3 from downtown for the half’s last bucket, giving USC a 41-34 lead heading into the intermission.

Coming out of the break, the teams exchanged scores and turnovers. Utah came storming back, however, as a 7-0 run brought the score to 47-45. Thankfully for Dawn Staley’s South Carolina basketball team’s hopes of winning, Te-Hina Paopao drained a 3-pointer to go up 5.

Playing at a much slower pace, the scoring and sloppy passing from both sides lessened, and the Gamecocks led 52-48 at the media break. A couple of offensive rebounds gave Carolina back-to-back buckets (one for Watkins, one for MiLaysia Fulwiley).

Pili continued to do solid work inside, but Kamilla Cardoso offered the most resistance of any Gamecock, including a big block in the post. As the quarter ended, Pili was up to 31 points on 13-18 shooting. The buzzer sounded with the Gamecocks leading 62-58.

As the final quarter began, 7 players were in foul trouble for the two teams as Kamilla Cardoso, Ashlyn Watkins, Sania Feagin, Alissa Pili, Jenna Johnson, Reese Ross, Maty Wilkes, and Dasia Young all had 3 fouls.

Both teams turned the ball over on offensive fouls to begin the final frame, and then Raven Johnson gave the ball away to Utah’s Kennady McQueen. The ugly basketball continued as 0-6 combined shooting and 5 total turnovers in 2 minutes nearly made viewers claw out their eyes.

Te-Hina Paopao and Jenna Johnson scored to end the misery, and posts Cardoso and Pili traded buckets to follow. A few possessions later, Pili set a new career high on a spinning shot in the lane, giving her her 34th and 35th points. Then, a big and-one from Bree Hall put Carolina up 72-67 with 2:34 left on the clock.

The Gamecocks got a big stop to preserve a 5-point lead with about 1 minute left in the game, but after back-to-back Raven Johnson turnovers, Utah had the ball with 40 seconds left. Pili tried to score quickly but traveled.

Two Kamilla Cardoso free throws iced the game, but Bree Hall also picked up a late layup to push the final margin to 9 points. In a game with 40 (!!!!) combined turnovers and 41 combined fouls, the Gamecocks survived to stay undefeated.