South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley piles up difficult games in the out-of-conference schedule to prepare her team for postseason play. Last game, they beat the 11th-ranked Utah Utes in a neutral site game in Connecticut. However, not every game can be a tough test.
On Saturday, Staley's squad welcomed the Presbyterian Blue Hose to Colonial Life Arena, and the heavily favored Gamecocks were without Raven Johnson for the game as the point guard sat. Her absence was for rest from some "general soreness." No further details were revealed.
The two teams traded deep balls to open the game as Bree Hall and Tilda Sjokvist both nailed 3-pointers. After a few more makes, the Gamecocks' hot shooting continued as MiLaysia Fulwiley knocked down two 3-balls to push the USC lead to 17-5 in just over three minutes of play.
After starting off 7-8 from the field, Carolina went 1-4 over the next four shots, but the lead still grew to 33-11 as the Gamecocks were just too much for the Blue Hose. A couple of lackadaisical defensive efforts allowed PC to score and pick up two free throws on back-to-back possessions to end the period as the Gamecocks finished the 1st quarter leading 36-15.
The 2nd quarter started much more slowly than the 1st as the Gamecocks led 3-0 after 2 1/2 minutes. The scoreless stretch continued for the Blue Hose as Carolina moved their lead to 42-15 before a Paige Kindseth free throw got PC on the board around the 6:30 mark.
The visitors still had not made a field goal in the 2nd period as the Gamecocks led 47-16 at the media timeout. The suffocating defense from the Gamecocks continued as the field goal drought continued all the way until Sjokvist hit a midrange shot in the final minute. After two PC free throws MiLaysia Fulwiley made a buzzer-beater to send the two teams to the locker rooms.
The half ended with South Carolina basketball leading 59-20. The Gamecocks already had four players with at least 9 points. Chloe Kitts, MiLaysia Fulwiley, Ashlyn Watkins, and Bree Hall combined for 41 points. They also had four players with at least 5 rebounds as Fulwiley, Watkins, Kitts, and Kamilla Cardoso had 24 boards. Fulwiley was also on triple-double watch as she filled the box score with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks at the intermission.
After the break, Dawn Staley's South Carolina basketball squad continued to dominate. The scoring slowed down considerably, but they also held Presbyterian scoreless to the media timeout. MiLaysia Fulwiley's athleticism and Kamilla Cardoso's size created major problems for the Blue Hose, as the duo got shots at the rim at will to bring the lead to 72-20.
Tilda Sjokvist finally ended the scoreless stretch (they also went over 7 minutes without a field goal) when she knocked down a shot from the perimeter. Ashlyn Watkins secured a double-double, and a block party hosted by Kamilla Cardoso kept the Hose off the scoreboard the rest of the quarter as the Gamecocks took an 80-23 margin into the final stanza.
Coach Staley's group put the South Carolina basketball car in cruise control down the stretch. Even so, the lead expanded. Tjokvist and Natalie Herrin made back-to-back banked 3-pointers for PC's only field goals of the period, and the Gamecocks finished the game with a 99-29 win.