The No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team used a strong fourth quarter on both the offensive and defensive side of the floor to outlast Duke 77-61 during Sunday's Jimmy V Women’s Classic.
The Gamecocks started rough in the first quarter with nearly as many turnovers as made shots, which led to a 20-18 Blue Devil lead after 10 minutes. However, freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley added to her already stacked season highlight-reel as she rattled home a half court 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.
Ball security issues continued to plague the team for the rest of the first half as it would head into the locker room with 14 turnovers, two more than its whole game average this season. But South Carolina took a 35-29 lead into the half by limiting Duke to 23.5% shooting from the field. The Gamecocks' defense also held the Blue Devils to just 9 points in the second quarter.
"We were just really antsy. I think we were just, a lot of us had tunnel vision and just we had one way or no way," senior guard Te-Hina Paopao said. "We were just going ahead of ourselves, so we had to just slow down, take a breath and let the game come to us."
Things got a little chippy at the end of the half, however, when Duke freshman guard Jadyn Donovan blocked a shot from sophomore forward Chloe Kitts and stared her down. Both Donovan and Gamecock sophomore guard Raven Johnson were assessed technical fouls for the confrontation.
Johnson had a strong game, despite the end-of-half scuffle, with 11 points and a team-high four assists. She also shot a strong 3-4 well from 3-point range.
The third quarter would be back and forth as both teams went on double-digit runs, leading to a 55-52 game by the end of the quarter. South Carolina started the runs with a 12-0 streak to push the lead to 15. Paopao had 10 of her 12 points in the quarter, accounting for half of the team's scoring in the period.
The Blue Devils answered the call by going on an 11-1 run to end the quarter and keep it a one possession game heading into the fourth.
But head coach Dawn Staley showed her faith in Johnson, electing her to play down the stretch in the fourth quarter over Paopao.
The Gamecocks responded by creating a huge fourth quarter lead by the team's defense. South Carolina held Duke to 21.4% shooting from the floor and 1-3 on 3-pointers, compared to 5-9 in the third quarter.
Senior center Kamilla Cardoso made the differnece in the final quarter with a 15-point and 14-rebound stat line. She recorded 8 of her points in the fourth quarter, including a tough basket-and-one to extend the lead to double digits. This marks her fifth double-double on the season, which leads the SEC.
"It's a game of runs. I thought they had the momentum going into the fourth quarter. We had to somehow stop that momentum," Staley said. "We choose to go into Kamilla, and Kamilla delivered for us time and time again."
Fulwiley also played significant minutes down the stretch, scoring 6 points in just the fourth quarter.
"MiLaysia, she didn't play at all in the second half, and she ends the game for us," Staley said. "She defended, she scored and that is the kind of the player that we need from, the play we need from her every single time, and I'm super proud that she was able to just come back and make the adjustments."
With the win, the Gamecocks improved to 7-0 on the season and will travel back home to Columbia to take on the Morgan State Bears on Wednesday, Dec. 6, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on SEC Network+.