By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Aleighsa Welch scored 12 points before leaving with a neck sprain and No. 1 South Carolina opened Southeastern Conference play with a 77-58 victory over Auburn on Friday night.
Welch helped the Gamecocks (13-0) build a 20-point lead before she hit hard again a basket post and remained down for several minutes. She walked off under her own power and went to the hospital for X-rays.
With the senior gone, Auburn cut the lead to 48-40 on Hasina Muhammad's basket with 11:42 left.
That's when the Gamecocks answered with a 12-2 run to restore control, a stretch that included Tiffany Mitchell's two foul shots after Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy was called for a technical.
Freshman A'ja Wilson had 12 points for South Carolina while Alaina Coates added 11 points and 14 rebounds, her seventh double-double this season.
Muhammad had a season-high 26 points to lead Auburn (9-5).