USC Women Roll Over Georgia 58-35
ATHENS, Ga. (USC SID) — No. 1/1 South Carolina (22-0, 10-0 SEC) locked down defensively to allow its offense to find a rhythm in 58-35 win at No. 22/21 Georgia Thursday night. Aleighsa Welch dominated on the glass with eight of her season-high tying 14 rebounds coming in the first half, including five on the offensive end. Freshman Bianca Cuevas continued her hot shooting from the last game with 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting. The Gamecock defense was on full display, especially in the first half as the Lady Bulldogs scored just 14 points on 17.9 percent shooting, highlighted by a four-minute drought midway through the period. The game began as the defensive slog that the Gamecocks and Lady Bulldogs have become known for with the game tied 7-7 at the 10:57 mark of the first half. After three consecutive South Carolina turnovers helped Georgia pull even, the Gamecocks launched a 14-2 run that Cuevas started and finished with her usual flair. A Cuevas drive put the Gamecocks up 9-7 and South Carolina forced the Lady Bulldogs into a pair of tough shots on the next two possessions. On the second, Tina Roy chased down the long rebound, reaching it before a Georgia player by a fingertip. She passed ahead to Cuevas, who looked to sneak behind the defense. When the lane closed down, Cuevas kicked it back to Roy trailing, and the junior hit a 3 from the left wing to make it a two-possession game for the first time. Tiaria Griffin drove the baseline for a Georgia bucket, but the Gamecocks went right back to work. Cuevas hit a 3 from the left wing off an inbounds play, which was created by her offensive rebound. On the Lady Bulldogs‘ next possession, Welch‘s tough defense forced an offensive foul. The senior reeled in a pair of offensive rebounds on the other end before Cuevas again found the bucket with a jumper from the left elbow for a 17-9 advantage. Welch blocked Mackenzie Engrams‘ shot and Elem Ibiam corralled the rebound. On the other end A‘ja Wilson got her first points of the night, and the Gamecock defense locked down for a shot-clock violation to get the ball back 30 seconds later. Georgia kept the Gamecocks off the board, but could not convert on the other end. Welch again pulled down the rebound leading Cuevas to hit a transition layup for a 21-9 lead with 5:32 to go in the half. Haley Clark stopped the run with a traditional three-point play, but Jatarie White backed down her defender and hit a short jumper in the lane to start a 9-0 run that put the Gamecocks up 30-12 with 1:25 to go in the half. The Lady Bulldogs hit 2-of-4 free throws late in the period, making it a 30-14 Gamecock lead at the break. The second half opened with more of the same for the Gamecocks – offensive efficiency and defensive tenacity. Tiffany Mitchell scored the team‘s first five points of the half to start an 11-4 run that would put the game out of reach for the Lady Bulldogs. Cuevas and Mitchell nearly outscored Georgia by themselves, combining for 30 points with 16 and 14, respectively. Cuevas was active all over the court, matching a career high for the second straight game with four rebounds. The Gamecocks outrebounded the Lady Bulldogs 50-38 and swatted 10 blocked shots with Welch notching three on her own. White grabbed a career high seven rebounds and scored a SEC-high five points in her return to action after missing three games due to illness. GAMECHANGER Freshman Bianca Cuevas fueled a 14-2 run in the first half that gave the Gamecocks some separation from the Lady Bulldogs. In the stretch, Cuevas scored nine points, brought down two rebounds and assisted on a Tina Roy 3. The run gave South Carolina a 21-9 edge and a cushion they would not give up. KEY STAT The Gamecocks‘ stifling defense limited the Lady Bulldogs to just 17.9 percent (5-28) from the floor in the first half. NOTABLES “¢ The Gamecocks have won 22 straight games to start the season, tying the record for best start to a season by any Gamecock sport (Baseball in 2000; Women‘s Tennis in 1979-80). “¢ Georgia‘s 35 points are the fewest allowed by the Gamecocks in an SEC contest this season. “¢ The South Carolina defense held Georgia to just 20.7 percent (12-58) from the floor in the game, the lowest opponent field goal percentage of the season. “¢ The Gamecocks posted the win despite a tough game from A‘ja Wilson and missing Alaina Coates, who was suspended due to a violation of team rules. UP NEXT The Gamecocks are set for a showdown vs. No. 2/2 UConn in Storrs, Conn. The 8 p.m. contest is apart of ESPN‘s Big Monday. South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena for a pair of games vs. LSU on Thurs., Feb. 12, at 7 p.m. and Vanderbilt on Sun., Feb. 15, at noon.