Gamecocks Down #25 South Dakota 73-68
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Junior LeLe Grissett scored a season-best 17 points off the bench to help No. 5/6 South Carolina hold off No. 25/21 South Dakota, 73-60 on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena. Freshman Zia Cook also scored in double figures for the third-straight game, and the Gamecock defense harassed the normally sharp-shooting Coyotes into 3-of-17 from 3-point range.
Grissett led the Gamecocks in scoring for the second game in a row, this time notching 17 points, her highest total this season. The junior made an impact on the glass as well pulling down six rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end. Cooke continues to find her offensive rhythm with her third-straight game with over 10 points, this time accounting for 13. The Toledo, Ohio, native also notched a pair of steals and one rebound on the day. Aliyah Boston was bottled up offensively by South Dakota, but still made her presence felt with five blocks and a game-high nine rebounds.
The teams traded the lead early with the Gamecocks edging in front 11-10 with 4:05 to play in the first quarter. The South Carolina bench came in and changed that, though, with Victaria Saxton hitting a jumper to start a 12-3 run in the final minutes of the quarter. The defense locked down the Coyotes, while points game from Destanni Henderson, Grissett and a 71-foot Hail Mary 3-pointer from Tyasha Harris at the buzzer to make it a 25-13 Gamecock lead heading into the second period.
Brea Beal and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan dominated the offensive end early in the second as the Gamecocks opened a 36-17 lead midway through the quarter. From there, the Coyotes rallied, yielding their struggles at the 3-point line in favor of driving hard to the rim, and a 12-6 run made it just a 42-29 South Carolina lead at the break.
Bolstered by a strong perimeter defense that didn't let South Dakota convert any of its 3-point attempts the Gamecocks took control in the third. Cooke accounted for the first seven Carolina points in the third with a pair of buckets and a 3-pointer adding that extra spice. Boston notched three of her game-high nine rebounds in the third as the Carolina lead swelled to 20 after a Saxton jumper with 3:03 remaining in the quarter. South Dakota tried to slow the Gamecocks' momentum with a quick 4-0 run in the closing minutes, but a pair of Saxton free throws and another buzzer-beating shot, this time from Henderson, gave Carolina a 20-point lead heading into the fourth.
The Coyotes cut the lead to 13 with 7:00 left to play, but Grissett locked in during the final frame, scoring eight of her 17 points to help the Gamecocks close out the game, and the decade, with a 73-60 win.
The Gamecocks converted 17 of their free throws, more than triple the five made free throws by South Dakota. In a game where both teams went 26-of-62 from the field, free throws proved to be the difference maker.
Carolina out-rebounded South Dakota 47-30 and scored 27 second-chance points.
The Gamecocks held South Dakota to 3-of-17 and 17.6 percent shooting from 3-point range, the lowest totals for the Coyotes this season, who entered the game averaging 10.1 made 3s on 43.7 percent shooting from that range.
Grissett led the team in scoring for the second-straight game with a season-best 17 points.
Cooke scored in double figures for the third-consecutive game, notching 13 points.
Carolina's 27 second-chance points were a season high.
South Carolina is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season.
The Gamecocks (12-1) get SEC play started when they host the Kentucky Wildcats (11-1) on Jan. 2 on SEC Network.