The top ranked Gamecocks take advantage of the much smaller Auburn lineup and cruise to their 24th victory of the season, winning 83-48.
The Auburn Tigers (13-10,3-8 SEC) welcomed the undefeated Gamecocks of South Carolina (24-0, 11-0 SEC) into Neville Arena on Thursday night, where Dawn Staley’s squad had their way in all four quarters.
South Carolina is one of the tallest lineups in women’s basketball, so it seems as if the paint is dominated by garnet and black for the entirety of any contest. Having 6’5” Aliyah Boston and 6’7” Kamilla Cardoso in a rotation creates defensive matchup nightmares for any opposing team. The two bigs combined for 16 points and 15 rebounds. Victaria Saxton also added 10 points and 6 rebounds off the bench.
“We’ve got a really good bench… there’s no let down”, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley mentioned in regard to how comfortable she feels playing such a deep lineup.
13 players recorded minutes for the Gamecocks, 12 scored, and 12 recorded at least one rebound.
The Gamecocks held Auburn to a 31.1 field goal percentage, only allowing 19 makes in 61 total attempts. That low of a percentage is what ultimately aids South Carolina’s offense the most, as it can rebound a miss, throw an outlet pass to a guard, and within two dribbles flip the floor and have a layup at the other end. Auburn head coach Johnnie Harris said the defense of the Gamecocks forced the Auburn players to go away from their intended game plan going into the contest.
“We started shooting quick, really contested shots and not getting back on defense, so they got a lot of easy looks in transition, and I thought that’s where it got away from us," Harris stated.
For Auburn, salt was added to the wound. The Tigers were without their leading scorer and rebounder, Aicha Coulibaly, who gives Auburn 24% of their scoring and 17% of their rebounding, as well as center Precious Johnson. Head coach Johnnie Harris knew this was going to be a very tough matchup, but she was proud of her team regardless of who was on the floor.
“I knew there would be times where I would look up and see four freshmen on the floor, but I wanted to see our team battle," Harris said about her team. “If you're a competitor, you want to be in this game. They’re the number one team in the country for a reason. Even though we’re young, you want to be in this game to see where we go from here and see how we can get there”.
Sydney Shaw and Mar’shaun Bostic both finished in double figures for the Tigers, putting up 15 and 10 points, respectively. Auburn found ways to score in certain stretches, but could never get into a “run”, as at best the teams were trading baskets on each end of the floor.
Coach Harris’ squad has been preaching to the young group regarding the things each player can control; one of the biggest things is ‘how hard you play’.
“I’ve been trying to get them to understand what that looks like, and that is what it looks like”, coach Harris said referring to the effort by Kaitlyn Duhon on a 50/50 loose ball. “You can’t let someone come in here and out play you. You can control how hard you play. Whether it’s diving on the floor, getting in help, taking charges, play like it’s your last possession”, coach J voiced.
The Tigers dropped their last two of a three-game home stand, and now hit the road to play the Crimson Tide (18-6, 7-4 SEC) in Tuscaloosa on Sunday. The game can be viewed on SEC network with tipoff scheduled for 4:00 PM.