The South Carolina women’s basketball team started its 2023 SEC tournament debut with a dominating 93-66 win Friday over eighth-seeded Arkansas.
The No. 1 Gamecocks came out of the gates blazing, shooting 54% from the field and 40% on 3-point shots. Arkansas was shooting 33% overall and 29% from three.
The team also led in total rebounds with 51, blocks with 10 and assists with 27.
"We have really special human beings," head coach Dawn Staley said. "They just wanna win. They see the game as an opportunity to learn and grow."
Most of the successes for the Gamecocks in this matchup came from scoring inside the paint.
The Gamecocks notched 60 points in the paint compared to the Razorbacks' 18, including 16 second-chance points compared to Arkansas’ 12.
The team's leading scorer was senior forward Vicataria Saxton with 19 points. SEC Player of the Year senior forward Aliyah Boston dropped 11 points and 10 rebounds, which marked her 79th career double-double.
“I think it was going really well. Like I said before, our teammates (were) just getting the ball inside, and just knowing when to attack the basket or when to pass it into the post,” Saxton said.
Senior guard Brea Beal, who was named to the All-SEC Defensive team, showed her two-way ability Friday. She registered 6 points from back-to-back threes and was third on the team in assists with four.
The Gamecocks received a 64-62 heartbreaking loss in last year's tournament final to Kentucky, adding fuel to the fire for the chance to lift up the trophy this year.
“You have to give credit where credit is due," Staley said during a news conference on Wednesday. "We haven’t lost since, so obviously it was a motivating factor for us that we brought into last year, the NCAA tournament, into this year.”
The Gamecocks will keep this motivating factor heading into the semifinals on Saturday at 4:30 p.m., where the team will face fourth-seeded Ole Miss.