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Analysis: No. 1 Թϱ women's basketball overcomes halftime deficit to beat Lady Bulldogs in milestone win

The Թϱ women's basketball team advances to 25-0 after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 70-56 at home on Feb. 18, 2024. ESPN College GameDay was at Colonial Life Arena and interviewed head coach Dawn Staley before tip-off. The victory marks the Gamecocks' 43rd consecutive SEC win and inches Staley closer to 600 wins as a head coach.

The No. 1 Թϱ women's basketball team overcame a 7-point deficit at halftime to defeat the Lady Bulldogs 70-56 and pick up its 25th win of the season on Sunday.

This milestone victory marks the program's 43rd consecutive SEC win. The previous record was 42 wins, set by the 91-95 Tennessee Lady Volunteers. Staley is now one win shy of amassing 600 wins as head coach.

Թϱ struggled to rebound and score from inside the paint during the first half of the game. The team couldn't get shots to fall and ended up tied 4-4 with Georgia in the first two minutes. 

But the offense started to click for the Gamecocks midway through the first quarter, when it went on a 9-0 run that widened its lead to 12-4. This lead wouldn't last long, however, as the Lady Bulldogs battled back in a 13-5 run led by junior guard Asia Avinger to tie the game back up at 17 to end the quarter.

The Lady Bulldogs carried its run into the second quarter, where it outscored the Gamecocks 18-11. 

Fifth-year forward Javyn Nicholson led the charge for the Lady Bulldogs in the second quarter, shooting 71% from the field on 5-7 shots in the paint. She finished the first half with 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

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Staley said she made "simple" adjustments during halftime to help the team conduct better offense and hold Nicholson to just 9 points and four rebounds in the second half. 

"At the end of the second quarter, we put (senior center Sakima Walker) on her. We put some length on her," Staley said. "And then, in the third quarter, we put (senior center Kamilla Cardoso) on her, and we quieted her down just a little bit."

In the first half, the Gamecocks made just 8 of its 28 points in the paint. Staley said the Lady Bulldogs' 2-3 zone coverage can be attributed to the team limiting its touches inside the paint during the first half. 

"I knew that coming in, if they got their zone working a little bit, it could be problematic. I thought we did a much better job in the third and fourth quarters, getting the ball to spots where it's a soft spot in their zone, and I thought it paid big dividends," Staley said. 

Cardoso recorded a double-double with 16 points, 16 rebounds and five assists. She scored 12 of her 16 points and grabbed 11 of her 16 boards in the second half. 

Sophomore forward Chloe Kitts said she was proud to see Cardoso's efforts pay off during the game.

"She was using her moves that we work on in practice and five assists. She's not just worried about herself," Kitts said. "She likes playing with her teammates, and she hits the cutters, so it's just great to see her have those numbers." 

The offense during the second half was a complete turnaround from the first. Kitts scored 10 points, and freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley made three assists.

Թϱ continued this resurgence of offense into the fourth with senior guard Te-Hina Paopao’s back-to-back 3-pointers. This sparked a 10-8 run to put the Gamecocks up big and keep it in the lead.

Fulwiley said she enjoyed the atmosphere brought to the arena by Gamecock fans, known as "FAMS," and ESPN College GameDay.  

"It means a lot just knowing that we have the best FAMS in the country, so just hearing them cheering us on even when we're up and down, it means a lot to us, and it helps us play better as well," Fulwiley said.  

Թϱ (25-0, 12-0) will take on Alabama at Colonial Life Arena on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.


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