Nov. 22, 2015
LOS ANGELES — No. 2/2 South Carolina used solid defense down the stretch to secure a 68-63 win at UCLA Sunday afternoon behind a career-high 17 points from Tina Roy and 17 from Tiffany Mitchell. The Gamecocks (4-0) and Bruins (2-1) were tied at 58-58 with 4:09 to play when A’ja Wilson’s bucket gave South Carolina a lead they would have to fight for but not did not relinquish as Wilson and Alaina Coates locked down the lane on the defensive end to seal the win.
It was a tough first quarter for the Gamecocks who endured six turnovers in the first 5:00 and shot just 29.4 percent from the field. Still, South Carolina trailed by just 16-14. The second quarter was more of the same but with better shooting for South Carolina, while the defense held the Bruins without a field goal for the first 5:12 of the period. UCLA’s scoring drought helped the Gamecocks establish a 25-19 lead with just under four minutes left in the half. Wilson and Coates dominated the defensive glass, and dialed in from outside. The Bruins kept the game tight hitting free throws in the waning minutes of the half, and Kennedy Burke’s 3-pointer ended the half with South Carolina leading just 32-31.
UCLA reclaimed the lead early in the third quarter with Kari Korver scoring five straight points to make it 36-34 Bruins, but Coates began to dominate on the glass and, working with good shooting from Roy, asserted herself on the offensive end as well. Roy started an 8-2 run with a pull-up jumper on the right side to tie the game at 36-36, and a Shay Colley steal sent the Gamecocks back on offense. A pair of offensive rebounds finally yielded a bucket from Coates to put South Carolina up 38-36 with 6:53 to go in the third quarter. Jordin Canada hit a pair of free throws, but Coates went right back to work inside to put the Gamecocks on top again. She reeled in a defensive rebound, and Mitchell’s hard drive in the lane drew defenders so she found Roy for another 3-pointer to make it 43-38 South Carolina. The Bruins closed the quarter on a 10-2 run behind a scoreless 5:07 from the Gamecocks that included another spate of turnovers and took a 48-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
A fifth 3-pointer from Roy opened the final period, and the Gamecocks took a 50-48 lead on a tough shot inside from Wilson. The game see-sawed back and forth as Canada continued to give the Gamecocks trouble. A pair of three-point plays from Wilson and Cuevas helped South Carolina back in front, but a pull-up jumper from Nirra Fields tied it again at 58-58 with 4:09 to play.
From there, the Gamecock offense locked in, hitting 4-of-5 from the field and continuing their solid free throw shooting. South Carolina called a timeout during which head coach Dawn Staley called for an alley-oop from Roy over the zone defense to Wilson, who delivered a quick shot to put the Gamecocks up 60-58 with 3:50 to play. The defense forced a tough shot on the other end, and Mitchell answered with a free throw line jumper around a Coates screen to stretch the advantage. A Gamecock turnover led to a Fields layup cut that lead in half at the 2:40 mark, and both teams could not connect over the next 1:42.
At crunch time, the Gamecocks turned to Mitchell who delivered on a floater in the lane with 58 seconds to go. Wilson kept the Bruins in check with a block on the other end as Fields drove into traffic, and the defensive rebound set up Coates for a tough transition layup and a 66-60 Gamecock lead with 40 seconds on the clock. With fouls to give, South Carolina looked to prevent the Bruins from even getting off a shot, but Coates was called for a flagrant foul with 35 seconds to play, giving UCLA life with free throws and possession. Canada hit the two free throws, but once again the Gamecock defense locked in. Sessions corralled a missed Fields 3-pointer, and Mitchell sealed the win with pair of free throws.
Four Gamecocks finished in double-figure points, including Coates and Wilson who each recorded a double-double with 12 points/12 rebounds and 1 points/10 rebounds, respectively.
Over the last four minutes, South Carolina’s defense held UCLA to 2-of-5 shooting and forced two turnovers while shooting 4-of-5 over that same span to deliver the victory.
South Carolina shot 50.0 percent in the second half, including 4-of-5 from the field in the final 4:00 to shake off a tough shooting first half.
- For the third time in four games, two Gamecocks posted a double-double — junior center Alaina Coates with 12 points and 12 rebounds and A’ja Wilson with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
- South Carolina shot a sterling 87.5 percent from the free throw line after entering the game hitting just 59.3 percent on the season.
- Six of Tiffany Mitchell’s team-high tying 17 points came in the final 2:40, decision time in the game.
- Senior guard Tina Roy tied her career high with five 3-pointers, including three in the first half to keep the Gamecocks within striking distance.
South Carolina travels to Hawaii for the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown next week. The three games in three days begins against No. 18/18 Arizona State on Fri., Nov. 27, at 7:30 p.m. (ET).