Mitchell, Gamecocks win SEC opener

January 2, 2014 

At Fayetteville, Ark., 13th-ranked South Carolina overcame cold second-half shooting to win its SEC opener over previously undefeated Arkansas on Thursday, 55-51.

The Gamecocks (13-1, 1-0 SEC) didn’t score for over seven minutes in the second half as a 16-point lead dwindled to eight, but Aleighsa Welch broke the drought with a basket and USC was able to find enough big shots to win. Freshman center Alaina Coates, playing extended duty when starting center Elem Ibiam picked up her third and fourth fouls early in the second half, posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Tiffany Mitchell led USC with 16 points. It was the first SEC-opening road win under coach Dawn Staley.

Arkansas (13-1, 0-1) shot a freezing 19.1 percent in the first half and hardly broke out of it afterward. The Razorbacks were below 27 percent for the game, only connecting on 18-of-69 field goals. But when Jessica Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 1:13 to play, the lead was just four points.

Welch was fouled and suffered a cut above her eye immediately after, and Olivia Gaines replaced her to make one of two free throws. It was enough as USC got a free throw and a defensive rebound from Mitchell to survive.

USC has its SEC home opener at 1 p.m. on Sunday against Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks will have a huge early conference test in their following game, hosting No. 6 Kentucky on Thursday.

USC again played without starting point guard Khadijah Sessions, who is still recovering from a sprained left ankle. The Gamecocks had 21 turnovers after averaging around 13 per game.

SOUTH CAROLINA (13-1)

Welch 5-11 1-3 11, Dozier 4-12 0-0 9, Ibiam 1-4 2-2 4, Davis 1-4 1-2 3, Mitchell 5-10 6-8 16, Gaines 0-1 1-2 1, Roy 0-2 0-0 0, Coates 5-8 1-2 11. Totals 21-52 12-19 55.

ARKANSAS (13-1)

Jackson 4-18 3-4 14, Peak 7-14 0-1 14, Bowen 2-9 3-4 7, Adams 2-10 0-0 5, Berna 1-7 0-1 2, Brooks 2-9 4-4 9, Bailey 0-0 0-0 0, Wolff 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-69 10-14 51.

Halftime_South Carolina 28-16. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 1-5 (Dozier 1-3, Roy 0-1, Davis 0-1), Arkansas 5-19 (Jackson 3-9, Brooks 1-2, Adams 1-3, Peak 0-1, Berna 0-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_South Carolina 48 (Coates 12), Arkansas 38 (Bowen 12). Assists_South Carolina 10 (Dozier 5), Arkansas 8 (Berna 6). Total Fouls_South Carolina 19, Arkansas 20. A_2,215.

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