The No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team won its 17th consecutive meeting against Ole Miss 64-57 in an overtime thriller on Sunday.
South Carolina earned its largest lead of the game in overtime, winning by 7 points. The defense played strong and held Ole Miss to just 2 points in the five-minute period.
“I thought we did a better job getting our bigs the ball, and they scored," head coach Dawn Staley said. "I thought we rebounded pretty good. I thought we just were calculating in where we wanted the ball to go and our post came through."
Senior guard Zia Cooke led the team with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. She played in all but two minutes of the 45-minute game.
The Gamecocks were averaging 82.7 points going into this matchup but were forced to rely on its defense in a game full of missed shots and a strong defensive showing from Ole Miss.
“They were locked in. They played their zone and they were committed to it," Staley said. "We didn’t handle it well until we actually had to, so it was a good game plan.”
Cooke got the ball rolling for the team, scoring the Gamecock's first and only eight points through about four-and-half minutes of the quarter. The team’s largest lead was 6 points, and it did not last long.
Both teams struggled to hit shots throughout the quarter, though the Gamecocks led 16-12. South Carolina shot only 30% and went 6-20 from the field while Ole Miss shot 31% and made 5-16 from the field.
The Gamecocks still could not pull away from the Rebels as the second quarter progressed, going on an early two-minute scoring drought that invited Ole Miss to tie the game up at 21 each for a moment.
South Carolina reclaimed the lead, but both teams proceeded to go on lengthy scoring droughts. The Gamecocks went scoreless for about three-and-a-half minutes while the Rebels struggled for about four minutes themselves.
The Gamecocks led 29-28 at the half. Cooke continued to carry the bulk of the offense, leading the team with 14 points and three assists.
The third quarter saw another scoring drought from the Gamecocks as it couldn’t find the basket for two minutes and 44 seconds. When the Gamecocks did score, the Rebels matched point for point, tying the game four times throughout the 10 minutes.
To add to the team’s struggles against the Rebels, South Carolina turned the ball over six times in the third quarter alone.
Despite it all, the Gamecocks led 44-42 at the end of the quarter. Cooke increased her scoring, recording 19 points and four assists going into the final quarter.
The Gamecocks continued its offensive struggles combining for just under seven minutes of scoreless basketball throughout the final 10 minutes of regulation play.
The game was tied 55-55 at the end of the fourth quarter, and South Carolina had possession with 1.5 seconds to go. The team missed its shot, forcing overtime in Mississippi.
Senior guard Brea Beal, who had 8 points, five assists and played 40 minutes, fouled out for the first time this season with 50 seconds left in overtime.
The Gamecocks struck first in overtime when Cooke made a jumper 27 seconds in. The offense continued to hit shots, going 5-8. As overtime went on, the Gamecocks were able to score 9 points and hold Ole Miss to 2, securing the win for South Carolina.
South Carolina improves to 27-0 overall and 14-0 in conference play. For its next game, the Gamecocks will head to Tennessee where it will face the Volunteers on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. The game can be viewed on ESPN.