FREEPORT, Bahamas (AP) With the team struggling on offense, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley turned to her freshmen for a spark. A'ja Wilson and Jatarie White responded.
Wilson scored 11 points and White added 10 to help the No. 1 Gamecocks beat Wisconsin 67-44 on Thursday in the Junkanoo Jam.
After a sluggish start, the Gamecocks got going. They led 15-14 before going on a 16-4 run to close the half. South Carolina scored the first 10 points during its burst which was capped by a 3-pointer by Tina Roy.
''When you have a team as talented as we are, to be able to insert two freshmen to give you an offensive jolt is a great thing. I thought (A'ja Wilson and Jatarie White) did their job by helping us open up the game a little bit,'' Staley said. ''It jump-started our offense and let us play more energized on the defensive end.''
The Gamecocks (4-0) led 31-18 at the half.
The Badgers (1-3) struck first in the second half, but the Gamecocks did not relent, mounting an 8-0 run sparked by back-to-back inside scores from Elem Ibiam. After Wisconsin missed a pair of free throws, Aleighsa Welch delivered a well-timed pass to Alaina Coates on the left block for another score.
Two more empty possessions by the Badgers, and Tiffany Mitchell scored to make it a 39-20 lead. Wisconsin never recovered.
It was South Carolina's first game as the No. 1 team in the country. The Gamecocks will face No. 22 Syracuse on Friday.
''For us, it's a fun trip, but it's a business trip. We came down to win two games. We got the first part of that done tonight, and hopefully Friday we can do the second part,'' Staley said.
Michala Johnson scored 13 to lead the Badgers.
The South Carolina bench scored 39 of the team's points (.582 percent) more than the (.438 percent) they average. Wisconsin only had seven points off its bench.
... The Gamecocks had 20 assists and 10 turnovers. ... Wisconsin hit 5 of its first 12 shots before making just one of its final eight to close the half.
South Carolina will face No. 22 Syracuse on Friday in the Junkanoo Jam
Wisconsin will play East Carolina on Friday in the Junkanoo Jam