COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Raven Johnson worried about the disaster of a team she saw out in South Carolina during summer workouts.
Out of shape, out of sync and headed for a big fall off from the program that went to three straight Final Fours. A few months later, these top-ranked Gamecocks are a playing like a finely tuned machine that’s yet to have its best day.
That showed again Thursday night as MiLaysia Fulwiley scored 18 points, Kamilla Cardoso had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds and South Carolina rolled to a 13th straight victory over state rival Clemson 109-40.
“In the summer when we were practicing, I didn’t see how it was going to be right now,” said Johnson, the junior point guard who finished with a career-best 17 assists.
Johnson recalled how rigorous and intense the workouts got as time went on and the efficient, high-scoring group began to emerge.
“It was tough, it was gritty,” Johnson said. “I think those practices made us who we are right now.”
And that’s a team that looks impossible to slow down. This was the third game cracking the 100-point mark – a program first – and putting away Power Five opponents following lopsided wins over No. 16 Notre Dame (100-71) and No. 20 Maryland (114-76).
“They’re different,” Clemson coach Amanda Butler said, “because they can shoot.”
Oregon transfer Te-Hina Paopao had 14 points with four 3-pointers and the Gamecocks used a 28-0 first-half run to win their 43rd straight at home.
It was Dawn Staley’s 200th win in 16 seasons at Colonial Life Arena, a building that was largely empty for women’s hoops before she arrived. Now, the program has led the game in average attendance the past nine seasons and drew 16,007 this past Sunday for the 114-76 victory over No. 20 Maryland.
Expect the big crowds to continue with the show these Gamecocks have put on so far.
Fulwiley had two flashy plays, a half behind-the-back move before pulling the ball back for a layin, and a full behind-the-back pass to Ashlyn Watkins for another easy score as the Gamecocks pulled away.
Clemson (3-1) missed 17 straight shots during the back-breaking run.
Fulwiley had four 3s and nine rebounds before fouling out, while the 6-foot-7 Cardoso collected her 18th career game with double figure points and rebounds.
Fulwiley continued her stylish, crowd-pleasing play. “I feel very comfortable out there,” she said. “Dawn tells me all the time in practice, ‘Just be you, just do what you do and it’ll work out for you.'”
Raven Johnson had a career-best 17 assists, one shy of the South Carolina record. Watkins had her second double-double this season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Maddi Cluse led Clemson with 11 points.
THE BIG PICTURE
Clemson: The Tigers found out once more they’re still several steps behind their rivals. There were no buttons for sixth-year coach Amanda Butler to push to keep this one close.
South Carolina: It’s a dramatic style change from its emphasis down low with All-American Aliyah Boston leading the way the previous four seasons to a run-like-crazy offense that can score from the outside.
Freshman Tessa Johnson is day-to-day with a lower right leg injury. Johnson, who had 12 points and seven rebounds in the Maryland win, took the court with a walking boot to protect her foot and ankle and using crutches. Staley was unsure how severe the injury was or how much time Johnson might miss.
Clemson: Takes on Longwood at home on Sunday.
South Carolina: Faces South Dakota State on Monday night.
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