ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. - No. 5 South Carolina turned in a solid defensive performance and got big nights from their two Caribbean natives in a 68-53 win over Washington State in the second round of the Paradise Jam Reef Division Friday night. St. Thomas product Aliyah Boston narrowly missed a double-double with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Anguilla native Mikiah Herbert Harrigan poured in 20 points to lead the offense.
The Gamecock victory was built on defense, though, as South Carolina returned to its lock-down effort on that end of the court. Washington State scored just nine points each in the first and third quarters on combined 25.0 percent shooting. The Gamecocks also scored 23 points off 21 Cougar turnovers.
South Carolina's offense started off the game on fire, and the Cougars offense closed it the same way. The Gamecocks used ball movement and attacking the rim to build a 16-point lead after the first quarter and were in front by 15 late in the second before a string of Washington State 3s closed the gap to 37-32 at halftime.
The Gamecocks took over in the third quarter, especially on the defensive end, allowing the Cougars just nine points in the period - the 14th single-digit quarter by an opponent this season. Meanwhile, all five Gamecock starters contributed to the 13-3 run that opened the second half. After South Carolina stretched out a 50-35 advantage just four minutes into the period, both teams went cold over the final six minutes of the third quarter, leaving the Gamecocks with a 51-41 lead heading into the fourth.
In the final period, the seniors dominated with Harris and Herbert Harrigan scoring the first nine points of the period while the defense held the Cougars scoreless over the first four minutes of the quarter to build a 60-41 lead that Washington State could not overcome.
The Gamecocks hit their first four shots of the second half to stretch a five-point advantage to 12 just 2:22 into the period with four of the five starters hitting a field goal in that timeframe.
The Gamecocks limited Washington State leading scorer Borislava Hristova, who entered the game averaging 21.4 points, to just nine points on 4-of-15 shooting
The Gamecocks' starting frontcourt of Aliyah Boston and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan scored 35 of the team's 68 points and shot 68.2 percent (15-of-22) from the field. South Carolina returned to its dominance of the paint, outscoring Washington State 40-22 inside. The Gamecocks opened each half on an 11-2 run with all five starters contributing points in each of the two runs. Herbert Harrigan's 20 points marked her second 20-point game of the season and the fifth in her career. She and Boston are tied for the team lead with seven double-figure scoring games this season.
South Carolina closes out the Paradise Jam on Saturday night, facing No. 2/2 Baylor in the final game of the tournament at 8 p.m. ET.