The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Top-seeded Gamecocks run past Savannah St.

3187 days ago
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A'ja Wilson scored 15 points and Alaina Coates and Aleighsa Welch had 12 points each as top-seeded South Carolina defeated Savannah State 81-48 on Friday night to win its first NCAA Tournament home game in 13 years.

The Gamecocks (31-2) shot 64 percent in putting away the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Lady Tigers (21-11) for a second time this season. South Carolina won its 33rd straight at home. It will have one more at Colonial Life Arena Sunday when it faces Syracuse or Nebraska on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16.

Ezinne Kalu had 21 points for Savannah State.

South Carolina's size, strength and athleticism eventually wore down the Lady Tigers in their first-ever NCAA Tournament game.

After Jasmine Norman's bucket made it 49-39 with 16:04 left, the Gamecocks went on a 21-1 run to take control and win their sixth straight opening NCAA Tournament game.

This figured to be mismatch in a lot of ways. Besides only one 16th seed upset over a No. 1 in history -- Harvard's take down of top-seeded Stanford in 1998 -- these teams met in December with the then No. 1 ranked Gamecocks running away for a 111-49 victory.

South Carolina used its strong inside game of 6-foot-5 Wilson, 6-4 Alaina Coates and 6-4 Elem Ibiam to dominate in the blowout. The power trio combined for 64 points and 20 rebounds.

This time, though, the Lady Tigers did a much better job keeping South Carolina from roaming free inside. Coates broke free for three quick baskets for a 26-12 lead midway through the opening period as the Gamecocks threatened to run and hide once again. Instead the MEAC champs pushed the pace for easy buckets of their own.

When Ezinne Kalu hit a 3-pointer with 2:28 to go before halftime, South Carolina's lead had shrunk to 36-28.

South Carolina went into the break ahead 43-30, a sizeable difference from last Dec. 14 when the Gamecocks led the Lady Tigers 60-22 at halftime.

While Coates had nine first-half points, Wilson and Ibiam had two points apiece and took a combined four shots.

It was the Lady Tigers who had the rebound edge the first 20 minutes, 13-11, although that changed too in the second half with South Carolina moving in front 33-24.