When it comes to South Carolina women’s basketball, the third quarter’s the charm. And that didn’t change Sunday against pesky Alabama.
Entering the contest, the No. 4 Gamecocks had outscored opponents by 110 points in third quarters this season, their best 10-minute frame by far.
And sure enough, Dawn Staley’s squad came out of Sunday’s halftime break with renewed energy and focus, recovering from a one-point deficit to secure the 87-63 victory.
Sophomore guard Zia Cooke led the way, tallying 12 of her team-high 21 points in the third quarter — she started off the game hot, scoring four quick points, but two fouls forced her to the bench and kept her quiet for most of the first half.
And after Alabama shot 50% in the first half, the Gamecocks held the Crimson Tide to just 31.3% from the field in the third quarter. The interior defense, which had been exploited for easy looks before halftime, stiffened, and outside of redshirt senior guard Jordan Lewis, not a single Alabama player had more than two points in a 24-13 frame that proved decisive.
1. Transition breakdown
Points off turnovers told the difference between the two halves. In the first, Alabama had 11 off eight giveaways, while South Carolina had just two off seven Alabama turnovers.
In the second half, that flipped, with South Carolina getting 12 points off six ‘Bama turnovers and Alabama getting just six off five giveaways from USC.
2. Second-quarter struggles
South Carolina’s worst quarter this season has generally been the second, and that bore itself out again Sunday, as USC was outscored 20-14 by the Crimson Tide, turning what had been a five-point first quarter lead into a halftime deficit.
In one particularly crucial stretch, senior guard LeLe Grissett forced a steal and seemed to have the advantage on the fast break. She flubbed the layup, though, and Alabama quickly responded in transition with a 3-pointer to tie the game. On the next two possessions, South Carolina missed layups, including another fast-break look from Zia Cooke.
That kicked off a stretch in which USC shot 2 of 10 from the field to close the half, while Alabama rallied to take a 41-40 lead at the break. The Crimson Tide hammered the Gamecocks’ interior defense, using pick and rolls and dribble drives to penetrate and get surprisingly easy looks despite the size of sophomore forward Aliyah Boston and Carolina’s other forwards.
3. Henderson everywhere
The main bright spot for South Carolina in the first half was clearly junior guard Destanni Henderson. By the end of the first quarter, she had eight points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals. She was key in sparking a run in that quarter to help the Gamecocks rally from an early 16-8 deficit.
NEXT USC BASKETBALL GAME
Who: No. 4 South Carolina (14-1, 9-0 SEC) vs. Auburn (5-10, 0-7 SEC)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4
Where: Auburn Arena, Auburn, Alabama
Watch: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN