South Carolina Basketball: 3 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down from SEC Tournament championship win over LSU

South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley has led her Gamecocks to their 8th SEC Tournament title in 10 years with another win over LSU in the final.

South Carolina basketball guard MiLaysia Fulwiley
South Carolina basketball guard MiLaysia Fulwiley / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK
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South Carolina Basketball vs. LSU Tigers
Thumbs Up 1: MiLaysia Fulwiley

The best freshman in the SEC was on the floor on Sunday, and it wasn't the one who received a trophy with that title on it recently. MiKaylah Williams won the SEC Freshman of the Year, but it is MiLaysia Fulwiley is the best first-year player in the conference.

Fulwiley dominated on Sunday, scoring 24 points in just 17 minutes, primarily when matched up with prized transfer Hailey Van Lith. Van Lith simply couldn't guard Fulwiley, and the Keenan High School product was excellent on defense, as well.

When things got a bit ugly with the late-game scuffle, Fulwiley didn't get involved at all, even though a dirty foul committed against her was the start of the melee.

The SEC still has to deal with MiLaysia Fulwiley for three more years.

South Carolina Basketball vs. LSU Tigers
Thumbs Up 2: Answering Every Run

South Carolina beat another top national championship contender on Sunday without playing their best game.

One of the primary reasons they were able to defeat LSU was because they answered every Tiger run with a run of their own. Kim Mulkey's team jumped out to a 13-7 lead. In no time at all, USC led 18-15. LSU went on a 9-2 run in the 3rd quarter to make the game close again. Carolina answered with a 9-2 run in 75 seconds. A 9-0 run? Responded with an 8-2 stretch. Another 9-0 run had its momentum stifled by an 8-0 one from the Gamecocks.

The free throw line was a help to Carolina in these runs. For the game, Dawn Staley's team shot 16-19 from the charity stripe.

Having more consistency through the game will help keep South Carolina basketball fans' blood pressures a bit lower, but it's hard to complain with a 32-0 record.

South Carolina Basketball vs. LSU Tigers
Thumbs Up 3: Stocking Up

When Kamilla Cardoso beat Tennessee with her miracle 3-point shot on Saturday, the Gamecocks did not have a ton of stocks (steals + blocks), and when they beat Texas A&M on Friday, they had even fewer.

The trend reversed on Sunday.

With 11 blocks and 8 steals, South Carolina made plays on defense. They forced 17 turnovers, as well. Frankly, if it weren't for the disparity in rebounding (LSU won the battle on the boards by 7), this game very easily could have been a blowout in favor of USC.

Ashlyn Watkins led the way with 5 blocks, Kamilla Cardoso added 3, and both MiLaysia Fulwiley and Te-Hina Paopao had critical steals that swung momentum and big moments.