Powered by its frontcourt duo of junior Alaina Coates and sophomore forward A’ja Wilson, top-seeded South Carolina cruised past 16th-seeded Jacksonville, 77-41, in Friday’s NCAA Tournament First Round at Colonial Life Arena. Both Gamecocks notched double-doubles and combined for 37 points for No. 3/2 South Carolina, which will play ninth-seeded Kansas State in Sunday’s second round.
Defensive pressure led to 12 Jacksonville turnovers over the first 20 minutes and allowed the Gamecocks to build a double-digit lead at halftime before Coates took over following the break. The junior tallied nine of her game-high 22 points in the third period and converted six of her nine field goal attempts in the second half. Wilson finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, while senior guard Tiffany Mitchell chipped in 14 points and two 3-pointers.
South Carolina’s defense overwhelmed Jacksonville in the early going, forcing the Dolphins to miss each of their first six shot attempts. Free throws from guard Khadijah Sessions and Wilson gave the Gamecocks a 3-2 lead before Mitchell sliced through the Jacksonville defense and converted a layup to make it 5-2 midway through the first quarter. Bianca Cuevas’ 3-pointer capped South Carolina’s 7-0 scoring run and made it 11-2, and the Gamecocks took a 15-6 advantage into the first break after guard Tina Roy knocked down a jumper as time expired. Wilson provided the bulk of the offense for the Gamecocks in the opening period, tallying seven points to go along with four rebounds. Jacksonville committed six turnovers and was held to just two field goals in the first 10 minutes.
A pair of 3-pointers from the Dolphins helped cut the South Carolina lead to five at 19-14 in the second quarter, but the Gamecocks’ size advantage down low didn’t allow Jacksonville to get any closer. A free throw and basket by Coates stretched the lead to 22-14, and the junior’s third field goal of the period made it 30-21 with 2:15 left in the half. Coates and Wilson accounted for all of South Carolina’s final six points of the quarter, and the Gamecocks headed to the locker room leading, 32-21, after forcing Jacksonville to miss nine of its last 11 field goal attempts of the half.
Coates continued to produce down low in the third quarter, tallying the second half’s first four points to push the advantage to 36-21. Mitchell paced South Carolina’s offense over the next few minutes, as the guard went on a personal 7-0 run that was highlighted by a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks their largest lead of the night at 43-23. The scoring continued to come from Coates and Mitchell, who combined for 19 of South Carolina’s 22 third-quarter points. Mitchell’s second 3-pointer of the period gave the Gamecocks a 49-30 lead, and Coates helped extend the lead back to 20 with a layup on South Carolina’s next trip down the floor. The Dolphins managed just nine third-quarter points, and the Gamecocks ended the period with a 54-30 advantage.
A 10-0 run midway through the final period pushed the advantage to 72-34, and Coates’ eighth field goal of the night gave the center 20 points with 8:40 left to play. Six different Gamecocks scored in the fourth quarter, and South Carolina’s defense remained strong down the stretch, as Jacksonville shot just 4-of-14 over the final 10 minutes.
Forward Briona Brown notched a team-high 17 points and converted three 3-pointers for the Dolphins, who shot just 28.0 percent from the floor. South Carolina held a 44-30 rebound advantage and finished the game with 15 more free throw attempts.
USC vs Jacksonville postgame press conferences