The South Carolina women's basketball team secured a 66-57 win over No. 5 NC State Tuesday night in the team’s season opener behind a powerful offense and strong paint defense.
The Gamecocks looked like a familiar team in the season opener as all 11 members from the 2021 Final Four squad stepped out onto the court for the matchup. In addition to this, both the No. 1 recruiting class and No. 1 transfer of the season, sophomore center Kamilla Cardoso, were added to the lineup.
The Gamecocks started off the new season with a winning tip over NC State and junior guard Brea Beal scored. From this point on, South Carolina kept its lead for the entirety of the game until the final buzzer went off in the packed Reynolds Coliseum.
This win over Wes Moore’s Wolfpack was a team effort.
“Got to give South Carolina all the credit, that’s why they're number one in the country,” NC State head coach Moore said.
Between junior guard Zia Cooke's demand of the defense and a strong paint presence in the paint by junior forward Aliyah Boston and junior forward Laeticia Amihere, it is impossible to credit the win to a single South Carolina player.
The South Carolina offense shot 49% from the field in comparison to NC State’s 41%. Cooke went 6-13 and finished the game with 17 points as the team’s leading scorer.
Senior guard Destanni Henderson followed closely behind with 14 total points for the Gamecocks. Senior guard Destiny Littleton had a crucial role in the offense as she added on seven points, most of which were in a competitive second quarter.
South Carolina's ability to penetrate the paint was a notable aspect of its guard play against the Wolfpack. During the first half, 14 of the 25 points came from the paint, and 10 of those points were from South Carolina guards driving it to the hoop.
The guards driving to the paint also opened up the door to free throws which were strikingly different between the teams. The Gamecocks went 13-19 from the line, whereas NC State only acquired four of six points from the line.
NC State can attribute the success that it did see on offense to its guard play, as 36 of its total 57 points came from senior guard Raina Perez and junior guard Jakia Brown-Turner. Perez’s scoring stood out in the first half, where she acquired 11 of the team’s 19 points.
Throughout this No. 1 versus No. 5 matchup, eyes were focused on two key players: Boston and NC State senior center Elissa Cunane. Boston was named last season’s Player of the Year by The Athletic and Cunane was named NC State’s All American and Preseason ACC Player of the Year.
Both players had a somewhat quiet first half, as they battled one another underneath the basket. Boston only accounted for two points and Cunane went 0-3 in field goal range.
“It’s really only one of her and like four of us, so we just tried to wear her down,” head coach Dawn Staley said about playing against Cunane.
Both Boston and Cunane saw some more action in the second half and they both finished the game with eight points. Between the two, Boston won the statistical battle by racking up five total blocks and six rebounds to make for a defensive machine. Boston and the Gamecocks were able to hold Cunane to no offensive boards.
The Gamecocks will stay on the road for their next game as they face the South Dakota Coyotes on Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. EST.