South Carolina basketball entered this weekend's game against Texas A&M 16-0 after a beatdown of Kentucky last week. The Gamecocks sit as the only undefeated team in the nation, and their unanimous #1 ranking reflects that.
The game against Texas A&M would be a different challenge as the Aggies are a good team and have not lost at home this season.
Even so, the Gamecocks started off hot, leading 11-0 in the opening three minutes of the contest. The lead grew to 15-0 by the midway point of the 1st quarter, but a few moments later, Sole’ Williams finally got the Aggies on the board with a 3-pointer. The big lead came courtesy of 15 points from Te-Hina Paopao, Kamilla Cardoso, and Raven Johnson and nice work on the boards from Chloe Kitts and Cardoso.
A&M had a clear goal on offense: the Aggies set a ton of screens on the perimeter, but between good ball screen defense from the Gamecocks and some poor shooting from the home team, Texas A&M started the game 1-6 from outside (and 1-14 from the floor).
Dawn Staley’s team, however, did not slow down. A 7-8 shooting start and beginning 6-7 on early free throws gave USC a 21-3 lead. 2 Aicha Coulibaly free throws helped momentarily, but 4 straight points from Sania Feagin made the lead bigger than ever.
The period ended with a bit of sloppiness as the Gamecocks bungled a hold-for-the-final-shot situation, allowing Texas A&M an extra possession. The Aggies took advantage and knocked down a last-second 3-pointer. The quarter ended with a 25-8 advantage for South Carolina basketball.
As hot as Carolina started the game, Joni Taylor’s team came out with a good effort in the 2nd quarter. The lead shrunk to 29-15 after the first three minutes of the period as Sahara Jones had a perfect trip to the free throw line and Sone’ Williams knocked down her second shot from behind the arc.
South Carolina’s 7-8 shooting start had turned into 11-18 before a Bree Hall layup settled the offense in again. After a few possessions, the score stood 37-18 in favor of Carolina but the game had been much more competitive than it was in the opening minutes. That feeling didn’t last long, however.
MiLaysia Fulwiley’s first 3-pointer was the shot that made the game 37-18, and the Gamecocks followed it with a big run to end the half. The deep shot from the freshman kickstarted a 17-4 stretch in which she scored 13 by herself over the final 4:44 of the half, including her third 3-ball at the halftime buzzer to make the score 54-23.
After halftime, the Gamecocks continued to make a good defensive Texas A&M team look far worse than their normally stingy selves. Two Chloe Kitts midrange jumpers were followed by a Te-Hina Paopao runner to start the half 3-3. A&M scored 7 points quickly, as well, though, so a Kamilla Cardoso 2nd chance bucket put Carolina up 62-30. The basket gave Cardoso her 10th double-double of the year with over 16 minutes left to play in the game.
A quick 9-0 run from USC finally ended when Endiya Rogers hit an in-rhythm 3-pointer, but Sania Feagin answered with her first make from outside on the year. A&M responded with their biggest run of the game (6-0), but MiLaysia Fulwiley silenced the College Station crowd with a transition layup through traffic.
As the 3rd quarter ended with a whimper from the Gamecock defense (A&M scored 10 points on 5-7 shooting in the final 2:41 of the period), Carolina carried a 79-45 lead into the final frame.
Though the 4th quarter was primarily a cruise control effort from the Gamecocks, Feagin tied her career-high in scoring with 15 points, and Fulwiley set a new career-high with 21. Even with playing shorthanded (Tessa Johnson left the game with an injury, and Ashlyn Watkins fouled out), South Carolina pushed their lead over 30 but elected not to try for 100 points.