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Analysis: No. 1 Gamecock women’s basketball defeats Alabama to clinch regular season SEC title

<p>South Carolina women’s basketball players accept and surround the 2023-2024 SEC Conference Championship trophy at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 22, 2024. South Carolina defeated Alabama 72-44 — a victory that marked head coach Dawn Staley’s 600th career win as head coach.</p>
Թϱ women’s basketball players accept and surround the 2023-2024 SEC Conference Championship trophy at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 22, 2024. Թϱ defeated Alabama 72-44 — a victory that marked head coach Dawn Staley’s 600th career win as head coach.

The Թϱ women’s basketball team obtained its 26th win of the season against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Thursday. With the 72-44 victory, head coach Dawn Staley picked up her 600th career win as a head coach.

Թϱ also clinched the 2024 SEC regular season championship for the third year in a row. 

“That is very impressive. Six hundred wins — congratulations to her,” junior guard Bree Hall said. “It does mean a lot, and she is an awesome person. She’s an awesome coach, and she is very deserving of it.”

The Gamecocks struggled to score early on, shooting just five for 18 from the field in the first quarter. Hall scored the first 4 points for the team as she made her first two shots from the floor.

The defense, however, managed to shut Alabama down, getting four blocks in the first 10 minutes. The Gamecocks also allowed just three made shots from 16 attempts in the first quarter. 

“I think we're probably more disciplined defensively than most teams. And that gets us over the hump,” Staley said. “I know they're super competitive. I know they don’t want to lose, and I know that they don’t get rattled.”

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The Gamecock defense continued to dominate through the first eight minutes of the second quarter without giving up a point. Alabama ended up shooting two for 16 in the quarter, only scoring 5 points. 

Թϱ's offense found its rhythm as well and shot nine for 17 from the field, scoring 22 points in the quarter. Hall and sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins led the Gamecocks in scoring with 8 points apiece in the first half. 

Թϱ outscored the Crimson Tide 39-33 in the final two quarters and won by a convincing 28 points.

Although the Gamecocks finished the game without trailing once, the team struggled to score in the fourth quarter, making just three of its 13 shots. Alabama outscored Թϱ 16-14 in the final 10 minutes.

Despite the final quarter struggles, the Gamecocks’ defense held Alabama to its lowest point total of the season and finished the game with 12 blocks. Watkins and senior center Sakima Walker contributed three blocks apiece.

Թϱ had four players score in the double digits. Watkins led the team with 14 points, followed by Hall with 13. Freshman guard Johnson and junior forward Sania Feagin gave the Gamecocks a scoring boost off the bench, as they scored 12 and 10 points, respectively. 

“We lost seven people (from last season). That’s a lot of people to lose, especially after a good season that we had,” Watkins said. “We didn’t expect to be this good, but once we saw that we (were) this good, we never looked back.” 

The Gamecocks were able to claim the win and the conference without their leading scorer, senior center Kamilla Cardoso, who was absent due to rest purposes. Dawn Staley said she hopes to have Cardoso back for the next game. 

Թϱ will look to continue its undefeated season when it travels to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats on Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. 


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