ATHENS, Ga. (AP) South Carolina seized the advantage when Georgia fell into foul trouble.
Tyasha Harris scored 20 points, A’Ja Wilson added a double-double and No. 8 South Carolina used an overwhelming advantage at the free-throw line to beat No. 20 Georgia 77-65 on Thursday night.
Harris, Wilson and Alexis Jennings, who had 19 points, combined to make 20 of 27 free throws. The Gamecocks had a 35-9 advantage in free-throw attempts as four Georgia players finished with four fouls.
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The foul trouble forced young Lady Bulldogs into the game – and South Carolina was ready to attack that vulnerability.
”We got some matchups we could take advantage of because they had some young players in the post,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley.
Wilson had 18 points and 16 rebounds for South Carolina (21-5, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) in a game that provided clarity to the top of the conference standings.
The teams began the night in a three-way tie with No. 11 Tennessee for second place in the SEC behind undefeated No. 2 Mississippi State. Alabama beat Tennessee 72-63 Thursday night, leaving South Carolina alone in second place.
”This is a huge win, a huge win,” Staley said.
Four South Carolina players combined for 70 points, including Bianca Jackson, who had 13.
Taja Cole led Georgia (21-5, 9-4) with 12 points. Que Morrison, Mackenzie Engram and Caliya Robinson each had 11 points.
The Lady Bulldogs have lost two straight games, and in each loss fouls were a problem. Georgia made only five of nine free throws. The imbalance was painful for Georgia players.
”We do not play as aggressive because we are in foul trouble,” Engram said. ”We cannot get in a rhythm because we are in foul trouble.”
Maya Caldwell’s late 3-pointer gave Georgia a 37-35 halftime lead. There were three ties in the third quarter, the last at 45-all. The Gamecocks scored the next six points, including five by Harris, and closed the period with a 14-5 run.
The Gamecocks continued to pull away in the final period.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won eight straight in the series with Georgia. South Carolina improved to 11-6 against Georgia with Staley, though Georgia leads the overall series 33-15. South Carolina has won at least 10 conference games in seven straight seasons.
Georgia: The Lady Bulldogs were effective near the basket in the first half, outscoring South Carolina 24-16 in the paint. Georgia finished with a less-impressive 38-32 edge. Engram had 11 rebounds but Georgia was outrebounded 47-32.
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
Georgia third-year coach Joni Taylor had to be restrained and drew her first career technical foul after a series of calls went against the Lady Bulldogs late in the third period. Asked for a comment, Taylor said ”We aren’t allowed to talk about officiating … unless you want to pay my fine.”
After scoring eight points in 10 minutes, Robinson fell to the court after twisting her left ankle midway through the second period. Robinson already had a wrap on her left knee. She had her left shoe removed and her ankle wrapped before returning to the game with 1:11 remaining in the half. Robinson started the second half.
Robinson scored only three points after returning from the injury.
”I think she’s fine,” Taylor said. ”I don’t want to say that had any bearing on the game at all.”
South Carolina: Hosts Kentucky on Sunday.
Georgia: At Mississippi on Monday.
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