South Carolina State struggles in 70-26 loss

South Carolina State coach Doug Robertson Jr. is not sure what

he’s doing the next few days, only that it probably won’t include

basketball.

The Lady Bulldogs’ sixth-year coach says he’s ready for a break

– and so are his players after their 70-26 loss to No. 10 South

Carolina on Sunday.

”I don’t want to see a basketball. Don’t call me if the Miami

Heat are playing the Indiana Pacers,” he said. ”I want to take a

break and they need a break.”

South Carolina State (1-8) has lost all eight of its games on

the road, although none had been as one-sided at this one at

Colonial Life Arena.

He will let his players have a few days off for the holidays

before starting preparations for their Mid-Eastern Athletic

Conference opener at home – the team’s first game on campus since

Nov. 21 – against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 30.

The Lady Bulldogs (1-8) didn’t have many answers for the faster,

taller, stronger Gamecocks (11-1). Freshman Alaina Coates had a

career-high 23 points on perfect shooting (7 of 7 from the field, 9

of 9 from the free throw line) as South Carolina eventually built a

52-point lead.

Robertson was not happy about this one, but believes his team,

which went 20-9 last season, has moved forward this season and will

be ready for the MEAC.

”It was more about what we had to do,” he said. ”We’re not

going to run across anybody this big or this good in our

league.”

Coates spoke recently with South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, the

coach’s message that the talented 6-foot-4 freshman must give

consistent effort on the floor and at practices.

Staley, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in

September, was known for his focus and single-minded desire for

success, even as a freshman at Virginia in 1988-89. She understands

freshmen lose their way at times, unaccustomed to the daily demands

of what it takes to play winning basketball.

”I guess she straightened some things out,” Staley said.

”She’s in control of the effort she puts out on the floor. Alaina

just has to understand the talent and ability that she has.”

Coates realized as the second half wore on she hadn’t missed,

but said that gave her more confidence to continue her run.

”It felt good out there,” she said.

Coates finished with five rebounds and three of the team’s five

blocked shots. The Gamecocks went on a 19-0 run in the first half

and a 24-2 run to start the second.

Elem Ibiam had nine points and nine rebounds for South Carolina,

which has one nonconference game left – Savannah State on Dec. 28 –

before opening Southeastern Conference play at Arkansas on Jan.

2.

”I think we’re in a good place right now heading into the

hardest part of the year,” South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch

said.

Mykala Jones had seven points to lead the Lady Bulldogs, who

have played just one of nine games at home with losses at Clemson

and Georgia. Their previous fewest points was in their lone win,

43-41 over Presbyterian.

”It’s been a daunting schedule, so I can accept a little bit of

fatigue, but I can’t accept this lashing we got today,” Robertson

Jr. said.

South Carolina State was held to under 25 percent shooting (12

of 49), which included a 2-of-19 showing from 3-point range.

Leading scorer Kourtney Williams, who averaged 18.8 points coming,

was held to six points on 3-of-14 shooting.

The Lady Bulldogs made two of their first three shots, then made

just four of 23 the rest of the half. They were held scoreless for

nearly 9 minutes and were 0 for 7 from behind the arc.