South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks cruise by Presbyterian, move on in NCAA Tournament

South Carolina basketball made easy work of the Presbyterian Blue Hose despite missing Kamilla Cardoso and Bree Hall. They will play Sunday in the Round of 32.

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley with forward Chloe Kitts
South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley with forward Chloe Kitts / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball began its NCAA Tournament journey on Friday after being named the #1 seed in this year's March Madness. The Gamecocks are in search of history, just six victories away from becoming the 10th team ever to go undefeated. The team's third national championship is on the line each game for the rest of the season.

Their first test was the Presbyterian Blue Hose. The Gamecocks whipped Presbyterian earlier this season, but on Friday, they were without Kamilla Cardoso (suspension from the Carolina-LSU dust-up in the SEC Tournament) and Bree Hall (undisclosed "precautionary" reason).

The opening tip went to the Gamecocks as Ashlyn Watkins started in place of Cardoso. Sania Feagin, also starting, was left alone at the elbow, and she knocked down an open jumper to open the scoring. Paige Kindseth tied the game with a layup, but Feagin scored again to retake the lead.

The USC defense was suffocating, forcing 3 turnovers in the first 3 minutes. The defensive intensity allowed the Gamecocks' offense to shake off some rust. After the slow start, Carolina got a 3-pointer to fall from Te-Hina Paopao and Raven Johnson added a bucket to push their lead to 9-2.

A few back-and-forth scores saw the score move to 13-6, but Chloe Kitts scored 4 straight points and pulled down 3 quick rebounds when she saw the floor for the first time after the media timeout. Shortly after that, a MiLaysia Fulwiley 3-point jumper made the score 20-8. Kitts and Fulwiley stayed hot as the duo each had 6 points after just 3 minutes on the floor. By the time the 1st quarter ended, the Gamecocks led 27-10.

The 2nd quarter started with Paopao and Fulwiley both knocking down 3-pointers, but Presbyterian didn't quit. Two nice buckets from the Blue Hose pushed their scoring total to 14, but Fulwiley cashed in another longball to give her Carolina squad a 22-point lead.

PC continued playing good offense in the 2nd period, including an 8-0 run in which they excelled with screens and off-ball cuts against the Gamecocks' aggressive defense. Chloe Kitts stopped the bleeding with a paint score, and another bucket from the sophomore forward brought her to 10 points in the game. A ridiculous and-1 from Raven Johnson and a Tilda Sjokvist 3-pointer rounded out the scoring for the half as the Gamecocks took a 48-25 lead into the intermission.

After halftime, Sania Feagin again got the first bucket just as she did in the 1st half. Te-Hina Paopao nailed her 3rd 3-pointer, and USC scored 9 points before PC got on the board. Mara Neira hit a 3-pointer to get the Blue Hose's first bucket of the half, and then the two teams traded scores for the next minute and a half. When the dust cleared, South Carolina led 66-35.

After a Raven Johnson bucket, MiLaysia Fulwiley came down and set a new career-high with her 5th 3-pointer. Johnson stayed hot a few possessions later by becoming the 5th Gamecock in double-figures. The strong quarter made the score 74-37.

The final stanza was a coast to the finish. The Gamecocks weren't able to rest starters much since they only had 8 players available, but they certainly took the foot off the gas a bit. Even so, Chloe Kitts tied her career-high in scoring, Kitts and Sania Feagin picked up double-doubles, and the Gamecocks held PC to just 2 points.

In the end, South Carolina basketball finished with a very comfortable 91-39 victory.

2349. South Carolina Basketball vs. Presbyterian Blue Hose. 91. 533. Final. 39