COLUMBIA, S.C. – A first half of frustration turned to a second half of excitement for South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
After a miserable start, the No. 6-ranked Gamecocks (9-1) bounced back to roll past No. 9 UCLA in a 66-57 win at Colonial Life Arena.
Senior center Alaina Coates, who provided the third-quarter excitement for South Carolina, had a game-high 20 points to go with 14 rebounds. Twice in the third quarter, Coates pumped her fist and yelled in celebration following offensive rebounds and putbacks as the Gamecocks built a lead behind a 15-3 run after halftime.
Coates started the run with 5 straight points before transition layups from Allisha Gray and Bianca Cuevas-Moore kept the run going. Coates scored again, Cuevas-Moore hit a baseline jumper and Coates got the first of two back-to-back putback buckets and USC was off to the races.
It was ugly early for the Gamecocks, who opened 2 of 15 from the field. South Carolina turned over the ball, was constantly a step behind UCLA getting to loose balls and struggled to get its offense going in the post in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks began to wake up late in the second quarter, pulling within 1 point a couple times before Doniyah Cliney tied the game 26-26 late in the first half. Forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had a key block to keep the game tied going into the half.
Herbert Harrigan played big first-half minutes with Coates and Wilson in foul trouble. The freshman finished with 2 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
A’ja Wilson had 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Gamecocks.
Player of the game
Coates was on the floor for only 9 minutes in the first half, relegated to the bench with foul trouble. She came out on a mission in the second half, scoring 11 points in the third quarter as the Gamecocks ran away with the game.
South Carolina’s plan was clear early in the third quarter: It was all about getting Coates the ball.
The senior center took advantage, she scored 5 straight points to open the second half. UCLA responded to the first free throw before South Carolina scored 10 in a row, keyed on by Coates’ strong start.
What’s next for South Carolina women’s basketball
South Carolina plays at Savannah State at 7 p.m. Wednesday
South Carolina vs. UCLA box score