The South Carolina women’s basketball team defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 91-74 on Sunday to advance to 19-0 overall and 7-0 in the SEC.
The game was a part of the SEC’s 12th annual “We Back Pat" Week, a week-long initiative that aims to raise awareness for the Pat Summit Foundation and Alzheimer's disease.
The key player for the Gamecocks was senior center Kamilla Cardoso, who finished the game with 23 points and six rebounds. After a slow start on Thursday against LSU, Cardoso made sure to impact the game early, scoring 8 of the team's 18 first-quarter points. Cardoso had a productive third quarter as well, scoring 13 points and going 5-5 from the field and 3-3 from the free throw line.
“I love when Kamilla gets going. She gets going early, and then we all just get hype. And we feed off of her energy, so just boosts our energy and our confidence,” junior forward Sania Feagin said.
South Carolina used its post players to get the ball in the paint. Sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins scored 11 points, and Feagin put up 9 points. The Gamecocks scored 48 points in the paint compared to just 28 from the Commodores.
Despite Cardoso's hot hand early on, Vanderbilt was able to stay in the game due to its strong perimeter shooting, which allowed the team to trail just 18-17 after the first 10 minutes.
“(Vanderbilt) can score. There's no doubt about it. They’ve got really talented players that — some of them didn't play last year, so they're healthy now. They made some pretty good moves,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “It’s a little bit of them, a little bit of us, and it's a little bit of them just making a play. They made great offensive plays.”
The second quarter was pivotal for South Carolina, as it managed to extend its lead to 12 points heading into the half. Most of its second-quarter success came from the team’s defense, which held Vanderbilt to just 25% from the field and forced four turnovers. This was the only quarter of the game where South Carolina was able to outscore Vanderbilt by double digits.
Coming out of the locker room, South Carolina looked to expand its 42-30 lead. One player who helped accomplish this was sophomore guard Raven Johnson, who hit two 3-pointers during the third quarter. Johnson is shooting 39% from three this season after shooting just 24% last year, making her another weapon from behind the arc. She finished the game with 10 points and seven assists.
South Carolina also saw dominant bench production from freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley, who helped the Gamecocks close out the game by scoring 8 of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Gamecocks have taken a two-game lead in the SEC. But the team still has a lot of room to grow from now until the end of the season, Staley said.
“We've got plenty of opportunities to learn while we're winning, and it really doesn't have to be that way. Certainly, we've got our fair share of improvements,” Staley said. “There are definitely some deficiencies in our defense, and we could get a little bit more fluid offensively. And we could probably push the ball a little bit more, get some buckets in transition.”
South Carolina will be on the road for its Thursday night contest against the Auburn Tigers (13-6, 2-4) at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on SECN+.