Wilson's 27 points lifts No. 2 South Carolina over Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) South Carolina moved a step closer to an upcoming showdown against No. 1 Connecticut with another road win over a top 10 team.
A'ja Wilson scored 27 points as the Gamecocks stayed unbeaten by holding on for a 70-63 victory over No. 10 Texas A&M. South Carolina, which opened a three-game lead in the Southeastern Conference race, has a lone home game against No. 12 Kentucky on Thursday before playing host to top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 8.
But first, there were the Aggies to try and take care of, as A&M had won four of its last five league contests.
''I was just letting the game come to me,'' said Wilson, who scored 13 of her points in the second quarter. ''We knew it was going to be rowdy, and that they were going to be excited, and we were going to be excited.''
The excitement peaked with the game tied 54-54 with 7:42 remaining. That's when the Gamecocks' Tiffany Mitchell drained a jump shot from the left side, and ensuing layups by Alaina Coates and Khadijah Sessions pushed South Carolina (21-0, 9-0 SEC) to a 60-54 lead following two fruitless A&M possessions over the span of about two minutes.
The Aggies (15-6, 5-3) tightened the gap to four at 60-56 on a jumper by Courtney Walker with 5:06 left, but Mitchell quickly responded with a 3-pointer in giving the Gamecocks a 63-56 lead with 3:38 remaining, in putting the Aggies away for good.
South Carolina dominated A&M in points in the paint (40-24), and Sessions and Mitchell each collected three steals for the winners.
''Tiffany Mitchell's steals got her some clean looks at the basket,'' Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said.
Mitchell added 20 points for the Gamecocks and Wilson and Coates contributed 10 rebounds each, while Courtney Walker led the Aggies with 23 points and seven rebounds.
''We just put players in positions where they could get easier looks, and our defense created some easy offense,'' Staley said.
The Gamecocks edged A&M 59-58 on Jan. 17. The game at South Carolina featured 19 lead changes, and Sunday's encore offered nine more.
''Folks, that was as good as we can do, it just wasn't good enough,'' A&M coach Gary Blair said, adding he wasn't disappointed at all in his team's showing.
Sunday also marked the start of a rugged three-game stretch for the Gamecocks, with the Kentucky and Connecticut games upcoming.
Sunday's contest marked the second lowest combined rankings for women's basketball in the history of Reed, which opened in 1998. No. 1 Baylor defeated No. 6 A&M 63-60 on Jan. 30, 2011. Staley said after Sunday's game her team didn't get rattled because it's accustomed to playing in tough venues in the SEC.
TIP-INS: Texas A&M's bench dominated its South Carolina counterparts 10-1. Only Tina Roy scored a lone point for the Gamecocks bench. . The teams were nearly even in turnovers (16 for South Carolina and 17 for A&M), but the Gamecocks capitalized more on the Aggies' miscues with a 22-15 advantage in points off of turnovers - with seven points also being the difference in the outcome.
STAT LINES: The teams were nearly even in shooting from the floor. The Gamecocks made 45.3 percent (24 of 53) of their shots, while the Aggies countered with 43.5 percent (27 of 62) shooting. . No Gamecocks backup even attempted a shot from the field, outside of Tina Roy, who missed all three. She did make a free throw.
QUOTABLE: ''There's not a sportswriter in here who could have guarded her, either, even in your best day.'' Texas A&M coach Gary Blair on his players trying to defend Gamecocks 6-foot-5 forward A'ja Wilson.
South Carolina hosts Kentucky on Thursday.
Texas A&M plays at Florida on Thursday.