Wilson leads No. 2 Gamecocks over No. 6 Ohio State 88-80
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Alaina Coates knows No. 2 South Carolina's post players are bigger, stronger and talented enough to wear down opponents. She watched it happen Friday night against No. 6 Ohio State.
A'ja Wilson had 20 points and 14 rebounds, Coates added 17 points and 13 boards as the Gamecocks outlasted the Buckeyes and All-America guard Kelsey Mitchell's 36 points for an 88-80 victory to start the season.
''With us being such big strong bodies, I think we did do some wear-and-tear on them,'' said Coates, a 6-foot-4 junior. ''We got the results that we wanted to down there.''
Did they ever. Throw in Virginia graduate transfer Sarah Imovbioh and the Gamecocks front line had 37 of the team's 51 rebounds. The 6-2 Imovbioh had 10 rebound and eight points in her South Carolina debut.
''We have some of the best post players in the country,'' South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell said. ''We're going to need them.''
The marquee matchup played out more like an NCAA tournament contest than a season opener. The Buckeyes held a 68-65 lead with 8:47 left on Mitchell's 3-pointer. That's when the Gamecocks' height in Coates and the 6-foot-5 Wilson took control.
The duo scored the Gamecocks' last 16 points and Coates twice blocked Shayla Cooper's close-in shots with Ohio State still in contention the final two minutes.
''I'd like to go inside a lot more than we did,'' said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, indicating the potential nightmare ahead for Gamecock opponents.
Mitchelll had 15 points for South Carolina.
Ameryst Alston had 23 points for Ohio State, which next faces No. 1 Connecticut on Monday. According to STATS.com, it's the first time since 2006-07 a team has played the top two ranked teams in consecutive games.
Kelsey Mitchell, the country's leading scorer as a freshman last year, was 10-of-24 shooting against South Carolina.
Ohio State follows up their trip here with its home opener against three-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut. The last time that happened was nine years ago when North Carolina State fell to No. 1 Duke and No. 2 North Carolina in back-to-back contests.
Ohio State's schedule also includes No. 13 Texas A&M on Nov. 28 and No. 3 Notre Dame on Dec. 2.
''I think we're certainly going in the right direction,'' Buckeyes coach Kevin McGruff said. ''We need to play these games.''
Before the game, South Carolina unveiled banners commemorating its Southeastern Conference regular-season title, its SEC tournament crown and its first-ever Final Four appearance. ''Hopefully, we'll have a banner that's bigger than that with the national championship,'' Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said with a smile.
MITCHELL VS. MITCHELL
Ohio State's Kelsey Mitchell got the better of South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell on the stats sheet in the matchup of two preseason AP All-Americans. Kelsey Mitchell said she'd much rather have the victory than the scoring lead. ''We didn't win so I didn't think it was good enough,'' she said. ''I think as a team we need to work on executing on the offensive end as well as rebounding.''
Ohio State: The Buckeyes could be one of the most experienced teams in the country. They have all five starters and eight of nine letter winners back from last year's team that won 24 games. Ohio State lost just 32 points from its program-record 2,836 points scored last season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks led the country in fan support last year, averaging 12,293 people a game. That could even grow this year. South Carolina sold more than 11,000 season tickets to the 18,000-seat Colonial Life Arena. That surpassed the previous high set last year of 8,143 tickets sold. South Carolina drew 16,815 for this opener.
Ohio State plays No. 1 Connecticut at home Monday night
South Carolina continues its opening weekend Sunday against UNC Greensboro