COLUMBIA — The streak of 100-point games is over, but South Carolina women’s basketball still easily handled South Dakota State 78-38 at Colonial Life Arena on Monday.
Starting guard Te-Hina Paopao was out with an ankle injury, and the Gamecocks (4-0) clearly felt her absence in their weakest offensive performance yet. They had faced Power Five opponents in each of their first three games, but it was South Dakota State (2-2) that held South Carolina to its lowest point total, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and assist total of the season.
Defense fueled the Gamecocks, who finished with a season-high 15 steals. Point guard Raven Johnson led with five and forward Ashlyn Watkins had four. Watkins finished with a well-rounded stat line of six points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Johnson again led the team with six assists, plus 18 points and three rebounds.
Gamecocks’ shooting warms up after cold start
Losing Paopao certainly affected the team’s shooting, but 0-for-12 from 3-point range was unprecedented after it shot at least 30% in their first three games. The team struggled particularly in the first half, entering the third quarter shooting 33% from the field and 0-for-9 on 3-pointers.
South Carolina improved significantly after halftime, hitting 56% from the field to improve to 43% for the game. The Gamecocks stopped shooting 3-pointers at a high volume, attempting just three, but they failed to complete any and also went 10-of-18 at the free-throw line. Fortunately for South Carolina, the Jackrabbits had an equally bad shooting night, hitting just 27.4% from the field, 2 of 13 from 3-point range and 2 of 4 free throws.
Kamilla Cardoso keeps South Carolina offense alive
Center Kamilla Cardoso was the most experienced player on the floor for the Gamecocks without Paopao, and she embraced the role with a career-high in points as the offense struggled. The senior finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, shooting 8 of 12 from the field. She also had six blocks and a steal and just one foul.
Cardoso made six of the team’s 15 field goals before halftime and led the team at the free-throw line, hitting 7 of 8 attempts.
Jackrabbits challenge South Carolina’s rebounding
Despite the size advantage of Cardoso, South Dakota State gave the Gamecocks a run for their money on the defensive boards. The Jackrabbits out-rebounded South Carolina defensively in the first half 15-14, but the Gamecocks still dominated on offense, with 15 to South Dakota State’s six.
South Carolina finished with 52 rebounds, led by Cardoso’s 10 and sophomore Chloe Kitts with nine. The Jackrabbits had 39, 26 of which came on defense. The Gamecocks scored 22 points on second-chance points behind 21 offensive rebounds, and their defensive presence improved in the second half with 31 defensive boards.
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