The atmosphere at Colonial Life Arena was excited Thursday night as the crowd rose to their feet and starting cheering at the top of their lungs; but this was long before the South Carolina women’s basketball team would notch the 71-63 win over Auburn.
In that moment of all the cheering and shouting, senior forward A’ja Wilson had just scored her 2,000th career point. Wilson is one of three women’s basketball players to do so in program history.
Not only was this a huge accomplishment for Wilson, her entire team and coaches were supporting her while she shared this recognition.
“It’s great. I think A’ja came here with goals in mind,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “I don't know if 2,000 points was a goal of hers, but certainly we kind of knew that was attainable for her just because she’s one that can score the basketball in a lot of different ways. We were glad to be apart of that milestone with her.”
Wilson wasn’t able to completely enjoy her accomplishment, as she left the court late in the game with a right ankle injury. Staley said Wilson has a right ankle sprain and will most likely take Friday’s practice off to be ready for Sunday's game.
Even with Wilson’s injury scare, the Gamecocks battled until the final seconds to claim the victory over the Tigers.
There was an instant drive and takeover by South Carolina both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball once tipoff happened.
This allowed for the Gamecocks’ defense to gain momentum under the ball and down the court to put up 20 points in the first quarter against the Tigers.
However, this lead became less significant as time went on during the game.
South Carolina managed to maintain a consistent scoring rate until the fourth quarter in which the team only held a six-point lead over Auburn.
“We’re a resilient group. We don’t like to give up big leads,” Staley said. “But I think this is a team in which we can concentrate a little better when our lead isn’t as big as it is, so that is a good thing that we can take from this game.”
The challenge that resulted in this close, fourth quarter matchup was the fatigue and complacency from South Carolina, instead of Auburn’s defense shutting down their offense.
Staley credited Auburn after the game for putting up a good fight, and how hard her team had to work to get the win.
“They will feed off of that just like blood in water, if there are sharks then they will go for it and make us pay for it,” Staley said.
Harris added to Staley's statement, saying the Gamecocks had to stay focused more towards the end.
“I think that it was more of us, we got overwhelmed and we started throwing the ball everywhere,” Harris said. “I think that it was more a mental thing and fatigue that got to us.”
Despite the struggle for Staley’s team to remain steady throughout the entire four quarters, she stated how she believes that her team is still a work in progress and that they understand times in which they are affective, but it’s just butting the bullet and they feel like they want to do something extraordinary.
Although No. 9 South Carolina was able to squeeze out their fourteenth win of the season, they are not satisfied with their performance as a whole. Even though there is a lot more work with execution that needs to be done, the Gamecocks are not afraid of their future opponents.
“I’m not worried,” Harris said. “Like I’ve said, we are very disciplined and pressure or not we are going to get there."