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Analysis: Women's basketball completes season sweep against Kentucky

<p>FILE - Junior forward Sania Feagin goes for a layup during South Carolina's game against Alabama at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 22, 2024. On Sunday, Feagin scored 16 points in the Gamecocks' 103-55 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.</p>
FILE - Junior forward Sania Feagin goes for a layup during Թϱ's game against Alabama at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 22, 2024. On Sunday, Feagin scored 16 points in the Gamecocks' 103-55 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats.

The No. 1 Թϱ women’s basketball team completed its regular season sweep against Kentucky in a 103-55 win on the road at Rupp Arena on Sunday.

This win marks 45 straight conference wins for the Gamecocks and four straight wins against the Kentucky Wildcats. The last time these two teams faced off, Թϱ beat Kentucky 98-36 on Jan. 15.

This is the Gamecocks' sixth time in the 2023-24 season scoring 100 points or more. Despite the absence of leading scorer Kamila Cardoso, the Gamecocks still hit the century mark.

“We utilized our depth and our length and our ability to play together,” head coach Dawn Staley said.

The Gamecocks started the game on a 25-8 run, with freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley making all six attempts from the free-throw line in the first quarter.

Թϱ continued its success on both sides of the court in the first half, leading 42-22 at halftime. The Gamecocks shot 53.6% (15-28) from the field in the first half and hit three shots from behind the arc on six attempts.

On defense, Թϱ held Kentucky to 10-34 shooting in the first half. Junior forward Sania Feagin was a strong component in the paint, finishing the day with five blocks.

The Gamecocks' ball movement was a key factor in its success, with 11 of the 15 made baskets in the first two quarters coming off an assist.

Fulwiley continued her success in the first half. She was the team’s leading scorer, despite coming off the bench. She went into halftime with 11 points on 50% (2-4) from the field.

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The Gamecocks' shooting efficiency overlapped into the second half. Senior guard Te-Hina Paopao hit three shots from 3-point range in less than a minute about halfway through the third quarter. Թϱ shot 75% (12-16) in the third quarter and also shot 80% (4-5) from behind the arc.

This shooting efficiency is exactly what Staley wanted.

“We wanted to get out to a quick start,” Staley said. “We wanted to make it very difficult for them to have any open looks.”

The unselfish ball movement continued in the second half, as the Gamecocks assisted on 30 of its total 38 baskets made over the course of the game Staley said this is something the team has been working on.

“We felt like something was missing from our fluidity of our offense,” Staley said. “30 assists on 38 field goals is pretty impressive.”

Junior guard Bree Hall led the team in scoring with 18 points, shooting 8-10 from the field and 2-3 from 3-point range. Five other Gamecocks scored in double digits, including Fulwiley (17), Feagin (16), sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins (13), Paopao (11) and sophomore forward Chloe Kitts (10).

Թϱ shot 64.4% (38-59) from the field and 66.7% (8-12) from three overall, but the stat that left Staley smiling was shooting 90.5% (19-21) from the free-throw line. Staley said the team has been working on free throws and getting that percentage up.

Թϱ won the SEC regular season title after its last win against Alabama on Thursday. The Gamecocks still have two remaining games before the SEC Tournament.

Down the stretch, Staley said she wants her team to put on their best performance yet. 

“Moving down, into the end of season and postseason, we want to play our best basketball,” Staley said. “This was a great start to do that.”

Թϱ (27-0, 14-0 SEC) will travel to Fayetteville in its next matchup against Arkansas (18-11, 6-8 SEC) on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network.


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