The No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team earned its first victory of the 2022 SEC Tournament Friday afternoon, defeating the eighth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks 76-54. While the team’s offense struggled at times, the Gamecocks relied on its defense to maintain its advantage throughout the game.
South Carolina's defense denied Arkansas opportunities in the paint, forcing the Razorbacks to rely on three-point shots that ultimately did not fall. Although Arkansas came into the matchup as the SEC leaders in made three-point field goals, the team made only five of its 31 attempts from deep.
South Carolina forced the Razorbacks to commit 17 turnovers during the game — 11 on blocked shots and six from steals.
Freshman guard Samara Spencer said the versatility and physicality of South Carolina’s defense made it difficult for her team to score.
“One through five, they’re all good, and when a big switches on you, they’re still defending you like a guard is,” Sanders said. “We consider them like trees, and getting down there is kind of hard to find that open person because they’re so much bigger than myself and Makayla and the rest of our teammates.”
South Carolina maintained a dominant presence in the paint on the offensive side of the ball, scoring 42 points in the paint and grabbing 20 offensive rebounds, compared to 26 and 12 from Arkansas.
However, South Carolina’s offense lacked efficiency outside of short spurts in the first and fourth quarters. The Gamecocks turned over the ball 17 times and shot 37% from the field, including 30% from three-point range.
Head coach Dawn Staley said the team needed to stay aggressive to mitigate the lack of made shots.
“Obviously, our shots weren’t falling, so we had to continue to attack the basket, continue to attack the boards and find a way to score,” Staley said. “You can’t have too many empty possessions when you’re playing teams in our league.”
Despite these inconsistencies, South Carolina’s offense maintained a high shooting percentage on free throws, hitting 23 of 28 shots from the charity stripe.
Staley said the team “did a great job at balancing our missed shots with getting to the free-throw line.”
The Gamecocks found another source of consistency in junior forward Aliyah Boston, who earned her 22nd consecutive double-double with a 17-point, 14-rebound performance.
“I’m just trying to be dominant, and that’s scoring the basketball and rebounding, and so I’m just making sure that I do that,” Boston said.
With the victory, South Carolina advances to the SEC Tournament semifinals, where it will face off against Ole Miss. The game is set to tip-off Saturday at 5 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPNU.