The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks keep undefeated record alive in dominant win over Morgan State

<p>Junior guard Bree Hall tries a 3-pointer to extend the Gamecocks' lead against Morgan State on Dec. 6, 2023. Hall is averaging 9.3 points per game as a starter in South Carolina's first eight games of the season.</p>
Junior guard Bree Hall tries a 3-pointer to extend the Gamecocks' lead against Morgan State on Dec. 6, 2023. Hall is averaging 9.3 points per game as a starter in South Carolina's first eight games of the season.

The South Carolina women's basketball team extended its undefeated streak to eight games by defeating Morgan State 104-38 in a dominant performance where the Gamecocks never trailed.

The Bears kept things close early on as they knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and took advantage of turnovers. South Carolina struggled to take care of the ball all game, finishing with 16 turnovers as a team — 10 of which were in the first half. 

"We've got to clean that part of it up," head coach Dawn Staley said. "I like us spacing the floor. I like us confidently shooting the basketball." 

Senior guard Te-Hina Paopao sparked a 7-0 run that would push the Gamecocks out in front to a 15-6 lead. She would finish with a well-rounded stat line of 12 points, five assists and one steal. 

Wednesday was also freshman guard Tessa Johnson’s first career start at South Carolina. She finished the game as the team’s leading scorer with 16 points and one steal.

Johnson has been dealing with a lower leg injury since the Clemson game, and this was her most extensive action since.

“Just getting back in line and playing basketball — it felt good out there,” Johnson said.

Staley said she has been trying to work Johnson back into the lineup and and would have put her in early in the week against Duke if the team's starters hadn't performed as well in the game.

"She's good defensively," Staley said. "She's great as far as being able to create her own shot. She's a floor spacer, so we've just got to get her stringing together some healthy games." 

Another strong performance came from sophomore guard Raven Johnson, who went a perfect 5-5 from the field, including 2-2 from 3-point range, and added two steals on defense. She made sure to spread the ball and was second on the team with five assists.

As things came together offensively for the Gamecocks, the team dominated from both inside the paint and beyond the arc. Paopao, Tessa Johnson, Raven Johnson and junior guard Bree Hall all had impressive nights from behind the arc, helping their teammates dominate in the paint.

South Carolina went on to shoot 68% from the field and 56% on 3-pointers. The team also posted a season-high 76.5% from the free throw line, on the way to scoring at least 100 points for the fifth time this season. 

Staley said the final score does not tell the full story of the game because playing teams such as Morgan State has its own importance, especially since it reminds her of her time as a coach at Temple University.

"When I was at Temple, we couldn't get a top team to play us besides Rutgers and Tennessee," Staley said. "I always try to schedule people who are elevating or trying to elevate their program." 

Staley also said the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference — which includes Morgan State — as a whole has "great coaching." 

The team also took time to honor Carlton Thompson, known as "Gamecock Jesus," who was a major supporter of Gamecock sports and recently passed away. 

"He brought so much energy. He always laid his heart on the line for all of Gamecock Nation," Staley said. "We're going to miss it, but his legacy will live on because he was everything that was right."

No. 1 South Carolina (8-0) will take on No. 11 Utah in Connecticut at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023.


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