Gamecocks cruise past Wildcats on way to Championship
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Tiffany Mitchell scored 20 points, leading five South Carolina players in double figures, and the third-ranked Gamecocks handled No. 13 Kentucky 93-63 in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference women's tournament Saturday.
A day after South Carolina turned in its worst offensive performance of the season, coach Dawn Staley's team delivered one of its best.
This one helped the top-seeded Gamecocks (30-1) advance to their second straight SEC title game. They will face either No. 16 Mississippi State or Tennessee in the championship game Sunday.
If South Carolina plays like it did against the Wildcats (23-7), it could be hoisting another trophy.
The Gamecocks opened up a double-digit lead in the first quarter, used an 11-0 run early in the third to make it a 20-point game and then turned it into a laugher with a barrage of 3-pointers in the fourth.
Bianca Cuevas hit consecutive treys, Mitchell sank one and then Tina Roy added a fourth in a two-minute span that put South Carolina up 77-50 with 6:40 remaining.
Mitchell made 8 of 16 shots, including 4 of 8 from behind the arc, en route to her sixth 20-plus-point performance of the season.
SEC player of the year A'ja Wilson (18 points), Cuevas (15), Alaina Coates (13) and Khadijah Sessions (10) also reached double figures for South Carolina. Coates added 10 rebounds for her 17th double-double of the season and third in the last four games.
The Gamecocks shot a season-low 31 percent and made a season-low 16 baskets in a nine-point victory against Auburn on Friday.
They responded better than even Staley could have hoped against the league's hottest team. Kentucky had won eight in a row, with its last lost coming against South Carolina.
Now, the Gamecocks have beaten Kentucky in Lexington, in Columbia and in Jacksonville.
Makayla Epps led the fifth-seeded Wildcats with 16 points.
Kentucky: Has lost six of the last eight in the series. ... Shot 44.6 percent, but couldn't overcome 19 turnovers and South Carolina's 52.9 percent shooting and 12 3-pointers.
South Carolina: Beat Kentucky on a neutral court for the first time in program history. Had lost the first four matchups. ... Wilson crashed hard to the floor following a foul with 7:11 remaining in the third quarter and was slow to get up and make her way to the bench. She iced her left hip and returned a few minutes later. ... Gamecocks dance team had an awkward moment at halftime when it lined up on the court and had to wait several minutes for someone to find the correct music track.
Kentucky awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding and pairing.
South Carolina plays either Mississippi State or Tennessee in the SEC final.