Nov. 13, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina used a 10-0 run over the final two minutes to break open a tie game and post an 88-80 win over No. 6/8 Ohio State in the season opener for both teams at Colonial Life Arena. It was the Gamecocks’ frontcourt that dominated at crunch time with junior Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson accounting for all 10 of the final points to both finish with double-doubles on the night.
After the Buckeyes took a two-point into halftime and extended it to four early in the second half, the Gamecocks chipped away at the lead with Khadijah Sessions getting the offense going with a transition basket and a free throw on the next possession. A Tiffany Mitchell 3-pointer knotted the game at 55-55, but Kelsey Mitchell answered quickly to quiet the crowd with a long jumper just inside the arc. Two possessions later Ameryst Alston drove the lane for a 59-56 Ohio State lead, and Tina Roy misfired on a 3-pointer on the other end. Mitchell reeled in the offensive rebound, though, and ran the same play, driving and dishing to Roy in the right corner, and the senior delivered on the second attempt to again tie the game with 2:23 left in the third quarter. Mitchell closed the half with a drive to put South Carolina up 64-62 heading into the third quarter.
With the crowd of 16,815 making its presence felt, the Buckeyes battled early in the fourth quarter, but could not hold off the charging Gamecocks. Senior Sarah Imovbioh kept South Carolina just ahead early in the period with a scrappy bucket on a busted play late in the shot clock. She added two putbacks moments later, the second of which gave the Gamecocks a 72-69 lead.
From there Wilson and Coates went to work, but turnovers allowed the Buckeyes to come back with Kelsey Mitchell scoring five straight points and Shayla Cooper adding a putback to tie the game at 78-7-8 with 2:35 to play. Wilson, who had struggled early in the game, had found her footing, though, and paired with Coates’ defense, would not let the Gamecocks fall.
Wilson hit a short turnaround jumper on the baseline to put South Carolina back on top 80-78, and Coates doubled the lead with the same shot on the left side. The junior center controlled the paint defensively as well, blocking Cooper and collecting the rebound in one motion. The play led to a Wilson drive and layup for an 84-78 lead with 50 seconds to play. Coates pulled down Alston’s errant 3-pointer, and again Wilson delivered on the other end to stretch the lead to eight with just 12 seconds on the clock. A turnover closed out the Buckeyes’ hope of a comeback, and Wilson sealed the game with a putback on a pair of missed free throws.
The Gamecocks stormed out of the gate, using their speed to put the Buckeyes on their heels with a 14-0 run. The Buckeyes knotted the game at 5-5 when Sessions’ quick-strike layup launched the surge. With the Gamecocks cleaning up missed shots on the other end, the offense found a smooth rhythm. Mitchell hit a baseline jumper then turned a steal into an easy layup. Wilson and Sessions each hit a pair of free throws, and, following an Coates block, Wilson hit a layup in transition. Wilson’s defensive rebound returned the favor with Coates hitting from the right block for a 19-5 lead with 5:21 to play in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes dialed it in from long range, hitting four over the next four minutes while the Gamecocks’ bench struggled to keep pace with the early 69.2 percent field goal shooting of the first six minutes of the game. Ohio State pulled within four by the end of the first quarter, and a pair of buckets early in the second made it a one-point game at 32-33 with 5:13 left in the half.
Coates and Mitchell re-established themselves on the offensive end with Coates hitting a pair of free throws and finishing a high-low delivery from Jatarie White. Mitchell stole the ensuing Buckeye in-bound pass and shook off a defender for a layup to put the Gamecocks up 39-32 with 3:44 to go in the half. Ohio State kept the pressure on with big shots and with a 3 from Ameryst Alston with five seconds left took a 47-45 lead into halftime.
Four Gamecocks finished the night in double figures with Wilson’s 20 leading the way. Her team-high 14 rebounds completed her double-double, which was also accomplished by Coates with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Mitchell added 15 points for the Gamecocks, and Sessions netted 12. Imovbioh reeled in 10 rebounds in her first Gamecock outing, adding eight points, including six in the fourth quarter.
South Carolina hit six straight shots in the final 4:31, going 10-of-16 in the last eight minutes of the game, while the Buckeyes missed nine straight shots over a four-minute span to shoot just 2-of-14 over the last eight minutes.
Three Gamecocks finished the game with double-figure rebounds as South Carolina out-rebounded Ohio State 51-42, including a 32-21 margin in the second half.
- South Carolina out-scored Ohio State 52-20 in the paint and turned 16 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points.
- The Gamecocks shot 47.4 percent (18-of-38) in the second half while holding the Buckeyes to just 24.4 percent (10-of-41) in the final 20 minutes of the game, including 25.0 percent (3-of-12) from 3-point range after they had hit 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from long-range in the opening half.
- Sophomore forward A’ja Wilson’s team-high 20 points came after netting just eight through the first three quarters, and 10 of her team-high 14 rebounds came in the second half.
- Senior guard Khadijah Sessions added three rebounds, three assists and a career-high-tying four steals to her 12 points.
South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley
“Our posts are our best passers to each other, and I’m glad that they were able to make a connection. I’m also glad they weren’t able to make a connection so that they could see what they need to correct in those types of situations. And, Sarah Imovbioh — we don’t win the game without her. We don’t win the game without her experience, her agility, her aggressiveness and her willingness to get back in transition. This type of game pays big dividends for her and her speed.”
South Carolina has a quick turnaround, hosting UNCG Sunday at 3 p.m. before launching a five-game road stretch at archrival Clemson on Wed., Nov. 18. The Gamecocks travel to UCLA and then on to Hawaii for three games in the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown.
TWEET OF THE GAME
— Joe Polek (@JoePolek) November 14, 2015