USC women throttle Benedict

USC Gamecocks

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley reacts to an official’s call during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Dawn Staley and South Carolina have agreed to a new, seven-year contract that will pay her $2.9 million this season and grow to $3.5 million in the final season. The school’s Board of Trustees approved the deal worth $22.4 million on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, to keep the national championship coach with the Gamecocks through the 2027-28 season. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina women’s basketball kicked off its highly anticipated 2021-22 season with an exhibition against Benedict Monday night. The Gamecocks leaned on their size advantage in a 98-41 victory, out-scoring the Tigers 60-10 in the paint and finishing with a 64-31 advantage in rebounds. Four individuals reached double figures in scoring, led by Kamilla Cardoso’s 18 points.

Benedict denied most of the offense’s post action early in the opening quarter and took advantage of a South Carolina scoring drought to push ahead 15-12 with three minutes to play. The Gamecocks turned to the bench for a big spark to close the period, and Cardoso made her debut a memorable one, piling up six points in a row on her own with a fast-break layup capping the run and putting her side back in front for good at 18-17. The center also brought down four rebounds – three on the offensive glass – and added a block in her four minutes on the court in the first.

The Tigers scored the opening basket of the second quarter, but from there it was all South Carolina, which finished the period on a 20-1 run in the final five minutes of action to take a 48-25 lead into the halftime break. The Gamecocks attacked the interior, hitting on 10-of-16 two-point field goal attempts with Cardoso and Laeticia Amihere perfect on their five combined shots around the basket. The advantage inside continued on the glass, with the team posting a 32-20 margin for rebounds that included 15 on the offensive side and led to 16 second-chance points.

Coming out of halftime, the Gamecocks connected on their first three baskets of the third to extend the run out to 26-1, with the defense remaining stout. Benedict made just three baskets on 15 shots in the quarter, and South Carolina’s post players made sure to limit any extra opportunities with a 22-5 advantage in rebounds. On the offensive end of the court, it was the team’s most productive quarter of the night, with 28 points coming from nine different Gamecocks.

It was the defense shining again in the final period, allowing seven points and three made field goals to the Tigers in the fourth quarter. The team finished with three blocked shots and a 14-6 advantage in rebounds and ended the final 3:09 of the game without allowing a point to Benedict. Aliyah Boston had a strong quarter on both ends of the court, scoring a team-high six points with two rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in five minutes of playing time. Destiny Littleton also enjoyed her best period of the night, with five points, a pair of assists and two rebounds playing out the entire ten minutes of the quarter.

NOTABLEThe Gamecocks were able to capitalize on Benedict miscues in the game, enjoying a 20-6 advantage in points off turnovers despite committing just four fewer than the Tigers.Point guards Raven Johnson and Destanni Henderson combined for 14 assists and just three turnovers running the offense. Johnson also added eight points in her 18 minutes of action, highlighted by making both of her three-point attempts.Along with picking up the offense early in the first quarter, Brea Beal was also effective on the glass Monday night. The junior finished second on the team with nine rebounds to go with her eight points in 17 minutes on the court.Among the team’s 64 rebounds, 24 came on the offensive side. That led to 25 second-chance points for the team.The offense finished with 38 shots at or around the basket in 73 total possessions, leading to the 60 total points in the paint.QUOTABLE
Head coach Dawn Staley on taking lessons from tonight into the regular season
We do talk about just creating the habits we want to see on game day. I thought we had great ball movement. I think we were super aware of making the extra pass offensively. I thought we did a pretty good job of pushing the ball down the floor after the first quarter. Defensively, we’ve got work to do with that area. I think we were not playing it with the toughness – people taking the ball out of our hands, you know, that toughness. I’ve actually asked our practice players, they’ve got to give it to us, they have to play tougher because that’s what we’re seeing. I thought we got good contributions that gives us a glimpse of what players can do what. We have players that can make plays, but they have to make plays consistently.

The team opens the season at NC State. on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The game has a 5 p.m. tip and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. The Wolfpack enters the season ranked fifth in the country, the game will be a rematch of last season’s meeting where State came away with a 54-46 win at Colonial Life Arena.

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