No. 2 South Carolina eyes top spot in 89-38 win
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Dawn Staley isn't sure her team should be No. 1 in the country. But San Diego State coach Stacie Terry has no doubts after the No. 2 Gamecocks beat the Aztecs 89-38 on Sunday.
It will be up to the AP poll's voters to decide Monday if South Carolina (3-0) has earned its first top ranking in program history. No. 1 Connecticut lost this week to No. 6 Stanford, then the Cardinal lost to No. 10 Texas, clearing the way for the Gamecocks to climb to the top spot in the country for the first time ever.
''We just got beat by the No. 1 team in the country in my opinion. It's been fun to watch Dawn grow this program,'' Terry said. ''She gets her young ladies to play very hard.''
The Gamecocks did everything they could to audition for the top spot this week, following a 58-point win over Clemson on Thursday with a 51-point defeat of San Diego State.
The Aztecs (1-3) led just once on Sunday at 6-5 after a pair of free throws with 15:56 left in the first half. The Gamecocks went on a 33-2 run over nearly the next 12 minutes, forcing 12 turnovers as San Diego State missed all four of its shots from the field and two of four free throws.
Staley was impressed with her team too, but she isn't sure she has the best team in the country. She also said it matters little in November to be No. 1, and so much in April.
''It will make a lot of people happy,'' Staley said. ''I don't think we work to be ranked No. 1 in the country, but we do work to be No. 1 at the end of the year.
In seven years, Staley has built South Carolina from one of the forgotten teams in the Southeastern Conference that gets mowed down by Tennessee, Georgia and other league powers to champions of the SEC. The Gamecocks earned their first-ever top seed in the NCAA tournament and are gaining respect as the latest emerging power in women's college basketball.
''We're just trying to open people's eyes and show we are a national contender,'' junior guard Tiffany Mitchell said.
Mitchell made all six of her 3-pointers and scored 20 points to lead South Carolina.
Heralded freshman A'ja Wilson added 15 points and nine rebounds, while freshman Bianca Cuevas added 11 points and five assists.
South Carolina had assists on 25 of its 33 field goals and shot 47.4 percent (9-of-19) on 3-pointers. The Gamecocks showed their depth too. South Carolina's bench had 53 of its points as 11 different players scored.
Erimma Amarikwa led San Diego State with nine points, while Chairese Culbertson added three points and six rebounds.
It is the second game in a row South Carolina didn't allow a player from the other team to score in double figures.
Staley said she watched some of Connecticut at Stanford and Kentucky at Baylor, but she really hasn't seen a lot of college basketball this year. So she passed on a question about whether her team is the best in the country right now.
''I only know us,'' Staley said. ''I only know the good, bad and ugly of us.''
Mitchell's six 3-pointers were the most made without a miss in South Carolina history. The Gamecocks have height and were expected to be dominant inside, but their outside shooting makes them even tougher to stop.
South Carolina is shooting 44.9 percent (22-of-49) on 3s this year. Last season, the Gamecocks shot 34.7 percent from behind the arc.
''We tried to take away those wonderful bigs they have,'' Terry said. ''We knew we would give up some 3s.''
The Aztecs couldn't stop South Carolina inside either. The Gamecocks had 40 points in the paint, while San Diego State had eight.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won 21 home games in a row ... Dawn Staley is just four wins away from career victory 300 ... South Carolina has never beaten a No. 1 team in women's basketball.
San Diego State: The Aztecs lost both games on their East Coast swing, losing 60-43 to Furman on Friday ... South Carolina was the highest ranked team San Diego State has played since losing 99-55 to No. 1 Connecticut in November 2008.
South Carolina plays Wisconsin on Thursday in the Junkaroo Jam in the Bahamas.
San Diego State plays Idaho State on Thursday in the San Juan Shootout.