South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks tame Bulldogs to move to 25-0, set new SEC record

After a close game against Tennessee on Thursday, Dawn Staley's South Carolina basketball team did not have a close call against the Georgia Bulldogs, winning handily in front of a sold out crowd.
South Carolina basketball guard Te-Hina Paopao and forward Chloe Kitts
South Carolina basketball guard Te-Hina Paopao and forward Chloe Kitts / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball played one of their tighter games of the season this week as they knocked off the Tennessee Volunteers by 11 in Knoxville. It speaks to the greatness of Dawn Staley's team that an 11-point SEC road win is viewed strangely for the Gamecocks.

On Sunday, in front of a sold-out Colonial Life Arena crowd, Coach Staley's team had their eyes set on a more dominant effort against the Georgia Bulldogs.

The opening tip went the way of Kamilla Cardoso and the Gamecocks, and a deep 3-pointer from Te-Hina Paopao opened the scoring. UGA took a brief 4-3 lead, but a 1-2 foul line experience from Cardoso tied the game at 4-4. The Gamecocks made 4 of their next 5 shots from the field (and another Cardoso free throw) for a 9-0 run.

After a few trips up and down the floor, a transition-minded MiLaysia Fulwiley found Paopao open for 3 again, and the Lieberman Award semi-finalist canned her second outside shot to go up 15-6.

When Kamilla Cardoso took a break, Javyn Nicholson scored 4 point to start an 8-0 run, and after a Sania Feagin make, Asia Avinger tied the game with a 3-pointer to end the period on an 11-2 spurt.

With Cardoso still on the bench to start the 2nd, Nicholson scored 4 points as part of a 6-0 (17-2) run. Bree Hall made a 3-ball to make the score 23-20 in favor of the Bulldogs.

The pace intensified, and after Paopao and Hall each made a perimeter jumper, the dust settled with the score tied 26-26.

The relentless effort from the Dawgs continued, and after a 3-point play from Nicholson, Georgia led 32-28 with just 3:32 left in the half. Nicholson continued to dominate, logging her 17th and 18th points and 8th rebound as part of a lightning-quick 9-0 run from the Bulldogs.

Simultaneously, Dawn Staley's team didn't score the final 4 1/2 minutes of the half (and committed 4 turnovers during that time), and to the surprise of everyone, Georgia led 35-28 heading into halftime.

A Nicholson bucket opened the 2nd half, and it was the first time in three years that Carolina trailed by more than 8 points in the 2nd half of a game. The 37-28 UGA lead evaporated expeditiously as the Gamecocks went on an 8-0 run over a 2-minute stretch.

Nicholson simply could not be stopped on a 3-point play, and she kept Georgia ahead as long as she could. A MiLaysia Fulwiley transition score put Carolina ahead 41-40. A 10-1 overall run put USC ahead by 4, but fouls and turnovers from both teams slowed the game to a crawl as the end of the 3rd quarter approached.

Exceptional defensive efforts from Ashlyn Watkins and MiLaysia Fulwiley capped off the elite overall defensive showing from the team in the 3rd. The Gamecocks held the Bulldogs to just 9 points (5 from Nicholson) and put themselves up by 6 heading into the final stanza.

The 4th quarter was even until Te-Hina Paopao hit back-to-back outside shots to put Carolina up by 12 points. The makes served as double-edged daggers, and Dawn Staley's team was able to coast to the finish, winning by 14 in a game that felt more competitive. The win was the Gamecocks' 43rd-straight win in the regular season, a new SEC record.

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