GREENVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina overcame early nerves to advance at the SEC Women’s tournament.
The Gamecocks crush Georgia in Friday’s quarterfinal, 89-56.
“It feels good,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “We were jittery at the beginning of the game and we had some uncharacteristic turnovers.”
Carolina struggled to begin both halves. In the first, the Gamecocks delivered an uneven performance in the first five minutes as they turned it over five times. The third quarter featured similar struggles offensively. South Carolina went more than five minutes without a made field goal to begin the second half.
“I’m not going to blow my top,” Staley added. “We’ve played 30 games. This team understands who they are.”
From the onset, Carolina’s senior guard, Tyasha Harris, was very vocal throughout to help organize her teammates.
“I think Ty has a really strong pulse on who this team is and what they’re capable of,” Staley said. “Sometimes, you let them work through some things.”
“Before we even went out there, I told them to get all your jitters out,” Harris added. “Make your mistakes now and then let’s rock and roll.”
The Gamecocks closed the first quarter on a 7-0 run in the final 45 seconds. Then in the third frame, Carolina pushed the pace and increased the lead to 22 points on the strength of a 12-1 run. The Gamecocks dominated stretches of the game thanks to great defensive play and help off the bench. LeLe Grissett, Victaria Saxton, and Destanni Henderson combined to score 33 from off the bench.
“I thought they played tremendously,” Staley said. “I thought they played like they were ready to go. Like, I should be playing more. I should be starting. They’re not going to say that. But that’s what you want.”
“The team gives me a lot of confidence to come in and help,” said forward LeLe Grissett. “Gives me a little spark. I go in and do what I can do.”
Despite a few slow stretches on offensively, the Gamecocks limited the damage the Bulldogs could create. Georgia shot a mere 31.5% combined in the final three quarters while turning it over 23 times during the game.
South Carolina advances to the SEC Women’s Tournament semifinal on Saturday. Game time set for 5 p.m. Focus will be crucial over the next 24 hours to come out ready to rock in Greenville.
“I think our players will understand what’s next,” Staley said. It’s a business trip. They know they’re here to win a tournament.”
The Gamecocks will face either Arkansas or Texas A&M.