No.1 South Carolina started its 2022-2023 season Monday with a dominant 101-31 win over East Tennessee State.
The Buccaneer's offense could not buy a bucket against the Gamecocks' defense. For the game, ETSU shot just 10-57 for 17.5% from the floor.
“They were pressuring us. I'll give it to them. I think they're an exceptional defensive team.” ETSU head coach Brenda Mock Brown said.
South Carolina came out swinging and showed early it was the physically superior team. The Gamecocks led 29-6 at the end of the first quarter and held the Buccaneers to 2-18 on field goal attempts.
East Tennessee’s shots were heavily contested and led to five Gamecock first-quarter blocks. Three minutes into the game, the Buccaneers started a field goal drought that lasted almost four minutes into the next quarter.
For South Carolina, its offense physically overwhelmed the Buccaneers. East Tennesse started the game in a 2-3 zone in an attempt to keep the Gamecocks out of the paint. While this strategy seemed to be working at first, with the Gamecocks starting 1-6 from behind the three-point line, South Carolina eventually found a way to use its strength to get the ball inside.
South Carolina’s ability to crash the offensive boards and draw fouls greatly benefited the team. In the first half, the team had 20 second-chance points and 13 points from free throws.
“We really focused on coming into this game with a lot of short races within the larger race of the game,” Mock Brown said. “We did not achieve a lot of those, as you can imagine. We wanted to limit their offensive rebounds to a certain percentage. We wanted to get a certain amount of score, stop scores in the game and just several other little goals.”
By halftime, the Gamecocks were up by more than 40 points.
“I see us formulating great habits, like habits that we have in practice and seeing them in the game,” head coach Dawn Staley said.
The same trends continued in the second half and the Gamecocks were able to build its 70-point lead in the fourth quarter. For the game, the team scored 58 points in the paint, while ETSU scored just 10.
Senior forward Aliyah Boston and senior guard Zia Cooke led the way for the Gamecocks. Cooke scored a game-high 17 points, while Boston secured her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
South Carolina’s quest for another championship started with a celebration of its last. Before the game, the team commemorated its 2022 national championship win by receiving its rings and raising the banner.
“Moments like this, show how special it is, and sometimes you might not realize what you have in front of you until it's really in front of you,” Cooke said. “Being able to see those rings in our hands and seeing everybody's reaction to it, it gave us the motivation to go out there and play.”
The Gamecocks will play its next four games on the road. The next game will put them against No.17 Maryland on Friday, Nov. 11. The game will start at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.