Wilson, No. 1 South Carolina rout NC Central 90-26
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Don't count on South Carolina to get too excited over its No. 1 ranking.
A'ja Wilson scored 16 points and reigning Southeastern Conference player of the year Tiffany Mitchell had 14 in South Carolina's 90-26 victory over North Carolina Central on Monday night, the first time the Gamecocks played at home as the top-rated women's team.
Throughout the romp, South Carolina players were the same, loose, steady group that coach Dawn Staley has seen since practice started three months ago.
''It's always fun playing at home,'' Mitchell said. ''Again, we're not too focused on the No. 1 next to our name. We just come out and play our same game.''
Against the Eagles (2-4), that was getting the ball down low to four players 6-foot-4 or taller. The tallest player on the court for North Carolina Central was 6-1 freshman Kierona Morton.
''I keep telling you guys, they don't get it'' about being highly ranked, Staley said of her players. ''I like it that way. I don't know what the No. 1 team in the country plays like, practices like. I know who we are and we have to constantly keep getting better.''
The Gamecocks (6-0) were already on their way to the Bahamas for the Junkanoo Jam tournament last Monday when they took over the top spot. After winning twice on Grand Bahama Island to retain No. 1 for a second week, South Carolina returned home in front of 8,823 and quickly took control.
The Gamecocks led 14-3 in the first five minutes and went on to win their 22nd straight home game.
Wilson added eight rebounds, although her shooting touch was off as she made just four of 12 shots. Mitchell had a career-high seven steals, surpassing the six she had in a win over Auburn last season.
Morgan Jones had seven points for the Eagles.
Asia Dozier had 14 points for South Carolina, including three of its five 3-pointers. Aleighsa Welch had 11 points and Elem Ibiam 10 to give the Gamecocks five players with double-figure scoring.
The Gamecocks beat North Carolina Central 79-27 last season and this one figured to be an even bigger mismatch with all South Carolina had back and its No. 2-ranked group of freshmen.
South Carolina's experience came through quickly. Mitchell and SEC newcomer of the year Alaina Coates had five points each while all-SEC first-teamer Welch had four after less than five minutes.
The Eagles missed nine of their first 10 shots and had 12 first-half turnovers.
Wilson, the 6-foot-5 forward, was off the mark a bit, going 2 of 6 from the field in the first 20 minutes. Still, newly chosen SEC freshman of the week had nine points in the period.
Dozier hit the Gamecocks' lone 3-pointer just before the buzzer to send them to the locker room ahead 39-16.
North Carolina Central coach Vanessa Taylor said her team's senior leaders had a lot of trouble against the country's top team. Racquel Davis fouled out and had just six points, 11 fewer than her team-leading average. Khyra Conerly, also a double-digit scorer, finished with just two points. ''You have to get big plays from your big time players,'' Taylor said. ''We struggled with that today.''
Wilson gave some fans a scare in the second half, tumbling over the scorer's table with her legs up in the air while saving a loose ball. When Wilson saw the ball headed out of bounds, her reaction was ''Oh, no.''
North Carolina Central: The Eagles came in averaging 19 turnovers a game, including 25 in their last game - a 55-52 victory over UNC Asheville. They finished with 28 turnovers against South Carolina.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks had used three different starting lineups in their first three games. They since gone with the same starters in the past four with Wilson coming off the bench.
North Carolina Central opens Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Saturday night.
South Carolina plays host to Charlotte on Thursday night.