Sunday's game between South Carolina and Clemson was certainly not one for the ages. In a game decimated by poor shooting, turnovers, and uncharacteristic play from Carolina, it was Clemson that was just a little bit worse as Carolina's talent and experience won out over a young Clemson team in a 64-43 thumping at the Colonial Life Arena in front of 4,893 fans.
"It was an ugly game," head coach Dawn Staley said. "It was unfortunate that we had so many people out that couldn't see a more exciting game. But we'll take the win."
Freshman Tiffany Mitchell had a superb outing in her first rivalry experience, joining Ashley Bruner as the only two Carolina players to score in double figures. Both finished with a game-high 16 points.
"I felt relaxed and tried to let the game come to me," Mitchell said. "Clemson is always a big game so we just had to turn up the energy."
Carolina shot just 40% from the floor and was 0-for-14 from behind the arc. The lone bright spot was a 22-for-35 effort from the free throw line, much better than the 56% average coming into the game. Even Ashley Bruner, who was 2-for-11 coming in, was 4-for-7.
"It is a focus thing and a thing we're emphasizing," Staley said. "Any time we can get Ashley shooting over 50% I think it raises our team average. We have to talk to Tiffany Mitchell a little bit about getting on track shooting free throws."
Fortunately for Carolina, Clemson shot just 24% from the floor and 1-for-10 from behind the arc. Clemson was a bit better at the charity stripe, knocking down 20-of-24 attempts. For the second consecutive game Carolina held its opponent without a field goal for nearly half of the first half. The Tigers did not get their first field goal until there was less than nine minutes to play in the half as Carolina jumped out to a 19-5 lead.
"The thing that we can do is defend I know we're going to be able to defend," Staley said. "Whether or not we will be able to hit shots is a different story. I think at the beginning of games we are ready to rock-and-roll. The players knew the magnitude of the game and wanted to win."
After being able to do whatever they wanted for most of the first half, Clemson went to a 2-3 zone to keep Carolina from getting the ball inside where it was getting easy baskets. They began double-teaming on the post and it caught Carolina off-guard.
"They went to a zone defense that caused us to second-guess ourselves," Staley said. "We went away from what we were doing the last two days, which was just trying to get them to move. They're very long. If you try and go over the top of them that plays into their hands."
Staley was certainly not kind to her team at the break and Carolina seemed to respond well. After Clemson opened the half with a basket, Carolina scored 10 consecutive points to stretch the lead to 21. Clemson would try and make a run late in the contest, trimming the lead to 53-39 with just under six minutes left to play, but Carolina would reel off six points in a span of 22 seconds to stretch the lead back out and end any hopes of a Clemson comeback.
"We knew we were going to be challenged a lot different than we were the first three games," Staley said. "It's a rival game for us and they came in ready to play and ready to challenge us. I told our players at halftime that we're not playing disciplined enough. Most of their points came off the free throw line and offensive rebounds. It was really uncharacteristic of us to turn the ball over 21 times without being pressured. We just had to refocus and stick with the game plan."
South Carolina will travel to the Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam next weekend. They open up Thanksgiving Day against Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast on Friday, and finish up against DePaul Saturday. Thursday's game is set to tip at 1:15, Friday's tip is 3:30, and Saturday's contest is set to bein at 6:30.
Dr. Guy has informed media relations that freshman Tiffany Davis suffered a torn ligament in her right knee that she suffered Thursday night against Savannah State. The injury will require season-ending knee surgery. That leaves Carolina with nine healthy players, with Tina Roy possibly returning later in the season after suffering a similar injury in the summer.
Carolina thumps Clemson, 64-43
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