No. 1 South Carolina routs Savannah State 111-49
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) If No. 1 South Carolina can win by pounding it inside, coach Dawn Staley sees no reason to worry about poor 3-point shooting.
The Gamecocks (9-0) beat Savannah State 111-49 on Sunday, passing the century mark for the first time in Staley's seven seasons despite hitting only one of their eight 3-pointers.
Staley said the more important statistic was South Carolina's 70 points in the paint, because it means her constant message to pound the ball inside to her team's five regularly playing 6-footers is getting through.
''If we can take it to somebody and get the win without relying on the 3, that's impressive,'' Staley said. ''But when it is time to knock those shots down, I have confidence in our team to do so.''
Two of those inside players set career highs. Heralded freshman A'ja Wilson scored 23 points and senior Elem Ibiam added 21.
The Gamecocks had 56 rebounds to 21 for Savannah State.
Sophomore center Alaina Coates added 20 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, while junior Tina Roy's 10 assists were a career high and the most by a player since Staley arrived in 2008.
South Carolina was coming off an emotional 51-50 win a week ago at No. 13 Duke in which the Gamecocks scored five points in the final 19 seconds. The break was for exams, and the country's top-ranked team didn't look rusty.
''Practice was just kind of a study break for everybody,'' Ibiam said.
But Savannah State (4-3) wasn't intimidated either. The Tigers had allowed fewer than 60 points in their last two games and posted their first win over a Southeastern Conference team with a 68-58 victory over Florida earlier this month.
Savannah State led 6-5 three minutes in. But then South Carolina freshman guard Bianca Cuevas scored seven points and had three steals to spark a 19-4 run, and the rout was on.
The Tigers' best inside player, Tiyonda Davis, fouled out with 8:41 left. Savannah State coach Cedric Baker said he had no choice but to leave her in because South Carolina was so strong near the basket.
''Our game plan was to play behind the bigs and play from the top,'' Baker said. ''If we had executed that, we probably would have protected her a little bit better.''
Ezinne Kalu led the Tigers with 15 points.
South Carolina heads out Monday for a three-game road trip. The first is against five-time defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Hampton. The Gamecocks will then head directly to Minneapolis for games against Central Michigan and Liberty in next weekend's Gopher Classic.
LOOKING TO MARCH
Baker said Sunday's game could prove more important to Savannah State in March than December. The Tigers went 10-6 in the MEAC last season, losing to Hampton in the conference tournament semifinals. Baker thinks this team can make the NCAA tournament. And if the Tigers do, he said, they will almost certainly play a top-10 team.
South Carolina: The 111 points by the Gamecocks was the most since beating North Carolina A&T 117-63 in November 2006. ... South Carolina had scored 99 points under Staley three times ... The Gamecocks have won all seven meetings with Savannah State by an average of 39 points. The closest game was a 19-point victory (52-33) in December 2010 - Staley's third season.
Savannah State: The Tigers came in after a disappointing 59-52 loss to Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC opener for both teams ... All five starters returned from last season's team.
South Carolina travels to Hampton on Wednesday.
Savannah State is at Auburn on Wednesday.