Nov. 30, 2015
HONOLULU, Hawaii — No. 2/2 South Carolina turned defense into easy offense late in the third quarter to pull way from Hawaii en route to a 67-51 win that delivered the Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Showdown championship. Khadijah Sessions scored nine of her 11 points in the final 4:18 of the decisive quarter to help the Gamecocks improve to 7-0 on the season.
The Gamecocks enjoyed a solid first half from Tiffany Mitchell, who got her offense going early with a 3-point from the right wing to put South Carolina up 5-3 early in the contest. The Rainbow Wahine battled, though, and behind good rebounding on both ends of the floor, traded the lead with the Gamecocks seven times in the opening 10 minutes. After Megan Huff hit a tough basket inside to make it a 12-10 Hawaii lead, Bianca Cuevas answered with a 3-pointer that put the Gamecocks back on top with 1:16 left in the opening quarter. Sarah Imovbioh’s defensive board led to A’ja Wilson’s basket on the left block to consolidate the lead, and Mitchell closed the half with a drive and scoop in the lane for a 17-14 South Carolina lead.
Mitchell netted the first five points of the second quarter as South Carolina looked to pull away in the second quarter. It took a late flurry from Shay Colley to make that happen, though. The freshman hit a tough layup in transition then picked up a steal to set up a free throw from Cuevas that sent the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 29-22 lead despite a nearly 5:00 scoreless drought.
South Carolina struggled from the field in the third quarter, but got just enough from Mitchell and Wilson to stay in front through the first 5:00 of the period. After the media timeout, Sessions and Cuevas asserted themselves into the flow of the Hawaii offense, creating four turnovers in five Rainbow Wahine possessions to spark an 11-2 run that gave South Carolina its first double-digit lead at 45-32 with 1:56 left in the period. A Sessions 3 from just over halfcourt at the buzzer put an exclamation point on the 22-point quarter, and the Gamecocks took a 51-35 lead into the final period.
Hawaii hit a series of 3s in the fourth, but its was not enough to overcome the Gamecocks, who got six more points from Cuevas in the final 10 minutes to close out the victory and the Gamecocks’ third-straight Thanksgiving tournament championship.
Wilson was named MVP of the tournament as she averaged 20.7 points over the three games. Cuevas joined her on the all-tournament team, which also included Quinn Dornstauder and Katie Hempen of Arizona State, Batabe Zempare of CSU Bakersfield and Megan Huff of Hawaii.
The Gamecocks used pressure defense midway through the third quarter, creating five Hawaii turnovers in six possessions to stretch a 34-29 lead into a 45-32 advantage before the end of the period.
South Carolina scored 23 points off 20 Hawaii turnovers, including 14 on 10 turnovers in the third quarter alone.
- Sophomore forward A’ja Wilson scored in double figures for the sixth time in seven games this season.
- This is the second-straight Thanksgiving tournament in which Wilson was named MVP, picking up the honors in last season’s Junkanoo Jam as well.
- Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell shot 50.0 percent (5-of-10) from the field to collect her 14 points.
- Senior guard Khadijah Sessions matched her career high with four steals, which helped her build 11 points on the night.
- Sophomore guard Bianca Cuevas finished with 13 points, netting double figures for the third-straight game to average 17.0 points for the tournament.
South Carolina returns to Columbia for its next three games and does not leave the state of South Carolina again until the New Year. The Gamecocks host #15/12 Duke at Colonial Life Arena on Sun., Dec. 6, at 2 p.m.