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Balanced Offense Paces Gamecocks to Win Over Maine

WPDE/Dawn Staley and South Carolina roll to their 3rd win of 2016.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Senior Alaina Coates posted her third-straight double-double and four other Gamecocks scored in double figures to propel No. 3/3 South Carolina to a 79-42 win over Maine Monday night at Colonial Life Arena. The center shot 6-of-7 from the floor and tallied 12 points and a team-high 14 rebounds for the Gamecocks, who scored the game’s first 15 points and improved to 3-0 on the year with the victory.

Junior forward A’ja Wilson also enjoyed a productive night, as Carolina’s size inside dictated the game for the second-straight night. Wilson totaled a team-high 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while freshman forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan tallied a career-best 13 points. Guards Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray each chipped in 10 points for Carolina, which sported a 52-8 advantage in points in the paint and held the Black Bears to 26.8 percent shooting in the victory.

The Gamecock frontcourt gave Carolina control of the game early on, with Wilson and Coates combining for five field goals in the opening few minutes. Wilson scored the first six points of the contest, knocking down three shots in the paint, and back-to-back buckets from Coates pushed the advantage to 11-0 with 6:48 left in the period. Lockdown defense kept the Carolina advantage in double digits for the remainder of the quarter, and a steal and layup by freshman guard Tyasha Harris stretched the lead to 15-0. The Gamecocks scored 10 points off six Maine turnovers and held the Black Bears to 2-of-15 shooting in the opening quarter. Wilson’s fourth field goal of the night made it 17-5, and Carolina headed to the first break with a 19-5 advantage following a jumper by Herbert Harrigan with 24 seconds left in the quarter.

Carolina’s guards provided the offense in the opening stages of the second quarter, starting with Bianca Cuevas-Moore. The junior made a nice move near the 3-point line to free herself from a defender before knocking down a jumper to make it 24-10. A 3-pointer by Cuevas-Moore less than two minutes later grew the advantage to 27-10, and a jumper by Allisha Gray and two layups from Kaela Davis helped the lead extend to 35-14 with 4:22 left in the half. The Gamecock offensive attack went through Coates down the stretch of the second quarter, as the center scored four of Carolina’s final six points of the half behind a pair of jumpers. Coates’ final field goal of the period gave her a first-half double-double with 10 points and 12 boards, and Carolina headed to the locker room up 43-19.

The Gamecocks tightened their grip on the game out of the break after scoring the first 13 points of the half to stretch their cushion to 56-19. Davis, who finished in double figures for the second time this season, sparked the offense out of the break with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws before Wilson found her rhythm down low. Back-to-back baskets from the All-American made it 54-19, and her third field goal of the period stretched the advantage to 58-22 with 4:22 left in the third. The Gamecock defense continued to give Maine fits, as the Black Bears missed nine of their first 10 field shots of the half. Carolina’s production down low remained strong, and a great entry pass by Herbert Harrigan set up Coates for an uncontested layup to help the Gamecocks head into the final period with a commanding 62-29 lead.

Carolina again boasted a strong start out of the break in the final period, scoring eight of the quarter’s first 10 points. Following Herbert Harrigan’s free throw and a layup by Harris, freshman guard Victoria Patrick netted her first points with a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks their largest lead of the contest at 68-31. A nifty one-handed pass by Harris led to a layup by sophomore guard Doniyah Cliney on Carolina’s next trip down the floor, and two free throws from Cliney later in the period made it 74-38 with 2:30 left to play. Herbert Harrigan capped off her strong night with a 3-point play and another bucket down low to reach double-figures for the first time as a Gamecock.

The Gamecocks shot 55.9 percent from the floor and connected on 10-of-16 free throws. Carolina scored 20 points off seven turnovers, finishing the night with seven steals and all of the game’s 11 fast-break points.

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