SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — After winning by 81 in its season opener, South Carolina found a tougher fight against South Dakota.
Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke each scored 19 points, and the top-ranked Gamecocks pulled away after halftime for an 81-71 win in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic on Saturday.
“We’re going to be tested,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “We were tested today. We’re going to be tested tomorrow. We could have scheduled differently, but this type of competition is the best type of teacher.”
Henderson finished two points shy of a career high. She was 8 of 13 from the floor and also had nine rebounds.
Chloe Lamb led South Dakota (0-1) with 18 points, and Hannah Sjerven added 15 points and 12 rebounds.
South Carolina (2-0) trailed by five during the second quarter and the game was tied 37-37 at halftime before the Gamecocks pulled away. They outscored the Coyotes 31-11 in the third quarter, and Cooke’s basket with 19 seconds left gave the Gamecocks a 20-point lead entering the final frame.
“Nothing changed,” Staley said. “I thought South Dakota played great basketball and we played subpar basketball. I thought we looked unorganized at times. We looked rushed. I knew we had another gear in us. When that gear kicked in, I thought we did a great job of exploding for a 31-point third quarter.”
They stretched the advantage to 21 in the fourth quarter before South Dakota cut it to seven with just under a minute to play.
South Carolina’s size eventually wore down the Coyotes. The Gamecocks outrebounded South Dakota 45-37 and had 15 offensive boards.
SHE SAID IT
“This is my 21st year of coaching, and an old coach told me that a marathon isn’t won in the first mile,” Staley said about getting down in the second quarter. “You have to have a little bit of trust in your players that some of your good habits will kick in, and they did.”
South Carolina’s Laeticia Amihere was 1 for 8 from the floor in the first half. She finished with 11 points and nine rebounds on 4-of-12 shooting.
“I just needed to go stronger in the paint,” she said. “I think in the first half I was going soft. I think I could be a lot stronger in the paint. Once I’m doing that — trying to get contact — and finishing through contact, is really what helped me in the second half.”
South Carolina plays Gonzaga in the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET.
South Dakota plays Gonzaga on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.
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