The No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 85-56 at home on Sunday to advance to 21-0 on the season and 9-0 in the SEC.
Both teams saw several key players get into early foul trouble, including senior center Kamilla Cardoso, who picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game. The teams combined to commit 15 fouls in the first quarter alone.
South Carolina shot 42 free throws and made 27 across both halves. The Rebels shot half as many free throws as the Gamecocks and made just 16.
With Cardoso in foul trouble and sophomore forward Chloe Kitts working her way back from an ankle injury, the team relied on its inside presence by attacking the basket and scoring in the paint. South Carolina scored 50 points in the paint, while Ole Miss scored 26.
One player who found success attacking the basket was sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins, who scored 6 points in the first quarter. Watkins finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds, making it her fifth double-double this season.
"I just played to my full potential and just showing that I can do that," Watkins said. "I knew that my team needed me getting rebounds and stuff, so I just making an effort to just play harder."
Despite her two early fouls, Cardoso went on to score 10 points in the third quarter and lead the team with 17 points overall.
South Carolina also took advantage of its offensive rebounds and capitalized on second-chance points. Both teams grabbed 10 offensive rebounds each, but the Gamecocks were able to earn 19 points off of them, while the Rebels were only able to earn 6.
Even with a 40-31 advantage at the end of the first half, South Carolina looked to extend its lead by pushing the pace and exploiting Ole Miss' turnovers. The Rebels turned the ball over 21 times, which allowed the Gamecocks to score 18 fast-break points overall.
“We all as unit just want the ball, so I feel like you can see that as the way we play defense. We're just all up on them aggressive, just pressuring the ball, just making them just give it up, just being disciplined, like I said. Don't reach because if we just give them the pressure like we do, I feel like they always just give it to us," freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley said. "It led to fast breaks, which we love."
Fulwiley had a strong performance on offense, scoring a total of 14 points, but she also made her presence known on the defensive side of the ball. She finished the game with two steals and one block.
“I see she’s tapping into all of her greatness because it’s just not making beautiful plays and creative plays, it is the whole gamut on both sides of the basketball,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “The more and more experience she's getting out there, getting deflections and steals, the more and more she's more amped up to play on the defensive side of the basketball, and I've got to play her.”
South Carolina will get back into action this Thursday when it takes on the Missouri Tigers at Colonial Life Arena. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and be broadcast on the SEC Network.
Following the game, Staley said the Gamecocks will play without Cardoso in Thursday's matchup as well as Sunday's highly anticipated contest against No. 11 Connecticut. Cardoso will be competing with the Brazilian national women's basketball team in a qualifying tournament for the 2024 Summer Olympics.