No. 1 South Carolina dominates Florida 77-42, stays unbeaten
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Top-ranked South Carolina will remain undefeated for at least another week.
Tiffany Mitchell scored 18 points, A’ja Wilson added 16 and the Gamecocks dominated Florida 77-42 on Monday night.
Now, South Carolina (18-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) gets a week off before starting a considerably tougher stretch that includes games against No. 10 Texas A&M, Mississippi, 22nd-ranked Georgia and No. 2 Connecticut.
”The key all season long is great leadership,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. ”Our seniors know the rigors of the SEC and they’re hungry. They want to do well and they want to take this team as far as it can go. And the way you do that is you have some success in this league. You know if you’re successful in this league it does translate outside our league.”
The Gamecocks controlled this one from the opening tip, taking a double-digit lead early and going up by 35 midway through the second half.
Mitchell was the best player on the court, making 8 of 10 shots, beating Florida up and down the floor constantly and finishing with four steals.
Wilson was solid, too. She made 7 of 11 shots and added nine rebounds.
”I thought our team came out extremely focused and played with a lot of energy, something that you need to get a win in the SEC on the road,” Staley said. ”I thought our offense looked a lot more fluid and loose and got up and down the floor and got some easy buckets and didn’t put too much pressure on our half-court sets. It looked good and felt good for us.”
Florida (9-10, 1-5) struggled from the start, missing 13 of its first 16 shots and playing little, if any, post or transition defense. South Carolina finished with 46 points in the paint and 14 on fast breaks.
”It’s exciting to have the No. 1 team in our league again,” Florida coach Amanda Butler said. ”But we didn’t bring the effort to match what it needs to look like to play against the No. 1 team. That’s really disappointing.”
Ronnie Williams led the Gators with 12 points before fouling out with 11:41 remaining.
Carlie Needles returned after missing the last two games because of a concussion, but was a non-factor. The guard missed her first five shots before finally finding the basket with about 2 minutes to play. She also had four turnovers.
South Carolina put away Florida early. The Gamecocks made 11 of their first 14 shots, getting just about anything they wanted in the paint and forcing the Gators into mistakes all over the court.
”The easy answer is just to look at their size and their talent,” Butler said. ”They’re also deep. These five go off and then there’s another five that look very similar to the first five that were out there.”
Florida is moving forward without Antoinette Bannister. The junior guard was dismissed from the team Friday after she was arrested for allegedly stealing a teammate’s credit card and using it multiple times. Bannister played in 13 games this season, including three starts, and averaged 6.2 points.
”We’re just really going to focus on what we have and what we can do,” Butler said. ”Losses and people who aren’t here, we’re not going to give that any energy. I think that we’ve got great potential on our bench, a lot of different combinations we can play.”
For Wilson, this was a nice bounce-back game. The freshman had three points and four rebounds against Missouri, but finished one rebound shy of her fifth double-double of the season.
South Carolina: Extended the program’s longest winning streak. … Won its sixth in a row against Florida, including three straight in Gainesville. … Has now held 17 of 18 opponents to less than 40 percent shooting.
Florida: Fell to 0-11 all-time against top-ranked teams. … Gators are 0-3 at home in SEC play. … Former Florida coach Carol Ross was the SEC Network’s color analyst for the broadcast.
South Carolina hosts Texas A&M next Monday.
Florida hosts Arkansas on Sunday.