COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Aleighsa Welch scored 12 points before leaving with a neck sprain and No. 1 South Carolina opened Southeastern Conference play with a 77-58 victory over Auburn on Friday night.
Welch helped the Gamecocks (13-0) build a 20-point lead before she hit hard again a basket post and remained down for several minutes. She walked off under her own power and went to the hospital for X-rays.
With the senior gone, Auburn cut the lead to 48-40 on Hasina Muhammad's basket with 11:42 left.
That's when the Gamecocks answered with a 12-2 run to restore control, a stretch that included Tiffany Mitchell's two foul shots after Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy was called for a technical.
Freshman A'ja Wilson had 12 points for South Carolina while Alaina Coates added 11 points and 14 rebounds, her seventh double-double this season.
Muhammad had a season-high 26 points to lead Auburn (9-5).
The Gamecocks' start matched their best-ever win streak set in 1985-86. The defending SEC champions opened league play with a win for a second straight season.
South Carolina said Welch begged to stay and watch the end of the game before she was sent to the hospital as a precaution.
Gamecocks leading scorer Mitchell, the defending SEC player of the year and sixth in league scoring at 14.8 points a game shot just 1 for 9. Wilson also struggled with her shot, finishing 6 for 17 from the floor. She had 10 rebounds for her third double-double this season.
The Gamecocks were back on the court after nearly two weeks off -- their last game was an 84-44 win over Liberty on Dec. 21 -- yet the break didn't seem to slow them down in their first league contest.
Welch had two early buckets and Khadijah Sessions a three-point play as South Carolina broke out to 9-0 lead less than 4 minutes in. The Gamecocks used a 10-0 run midway through the period to increase the margin, despite some spotty play by their two leading scorers in Mitchell and Wilson to lead 34-17 at the break.
With the defense South Carolina played, scoring didn't matter so much. Auburn made just seven field goals -- it had nine turnovers -- and missed 10 straight shots at one point.