It wasn’t pretty (by No. 1 South Carolina’s standards), but it was a win.
The Gamecocks defeated the South Dakota State Jackrabbits 78-38 Monday night at Colonial Life Arena. It marked USC’s lowest-scoring game of the season.
South Carolina (4-0) employed a new starting lineup against SDSU, as guard Te-Hina Paopao missed the game with an ankle injury. Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley took Paopao’s place alongside fellow guards Raven Johnson and Bree Hall, center Kamilla Cardoso and forward Chloe Kitts. USC also played without freshman guard Tessa Johnson, who missed the Clemson game Thursday after she sprained her ankle during shootaround. All nine available players checked in.
Cardoso led the Gamecocks with 23 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Raven Johnson also scored double digits, ending the game with 18 points, six assists and five steals. Fulwiley had 11 points.
South Carolina’s next game will be at home versus Mississippi Valley State on Friday at 1 p.m.
The offense struggled without Paopao
South Carolina’s offense scored 323 points on 53.1% shooting through the first three games of the season. The unit ranked second in the NCAA behind only Jackson State going into Monday night, averaging 107.7 points per contest.
That high-octane offense and efficient shooting did not make an appearance against the SDSU Jackrabbits.
The Gamecocks scored 36 points — a season low — on a 33% clip in the first half Monday and missed all nine 3-point attempts. The numbers improved as the game progressed, though, as USC ended the night shooting 43% from the field and missing all 12 of its 3-point attempts.
They missed the steady on-court presence of Paopao. She has averaged 14 points (third on the team) and 3.33 makes from 3-point range per game (second in the SEC and 29th in the nation), shooting 53.3% from the field and 58.8% from beyond the arc (first in the SEC and 26th in the nation).
There were flashes of the dynamic USC offense folks have become accustomed to three games into the season. Raven Johnson had a few steals turned transition layups, including a flashy Eurostep in the third quarter. Fulwiley had a tough layup in the third quarter, where she tossed the ball toward the basket from up under an SDSU player’s arm, getting fouled on her way up.
It just looked like an an off night.
Defense rebounds in second half
The Jackrabbits challenged the Gamecocks in the first half.
After two quarters, South Carolina led 36-22.
USC out-rebounded SDSU 29-21. But South Dakota State had 15 defensive rebounds to South Carolina’s 14. The Gamecocks had 14 second-chance points — nearly half their points.
The Gamecocks did a better job of shutting things down in the second, only allowing the Jackrabbits to score 16 more points. Johnson and sophomore Ashlyn Watkins led USC with five and four steals, respectively. Cardoso had a team-best six blocks, followed by Watkins with her three.
Kamilla Cardoso powers through for career night
South Carolina stalwart Cardoso had a double-double (her third of the season) with a career-high 23 points (passing her previous best of 20 points versus then-No. 10 Notre Dame in Paris) and 10 rebounds plus six blocks against SDSU.
She struggled at times as the Jackrabbits packed the paint, trying to soften her impact. But the senior powered through to be a difference-maker in a game where the Gamecocks were the most discombobulated we’ve seen them this season.
Next four South Carolina WBB games
Nov. 24: vs. Mississippi Valley State, 1 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
Nov. 30: at UNC, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Dec. 3: at Duke, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Dec. 6: vs. Morgan State, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)