Gamecocks roll past Presbyterian, 52-24

The South Carolina Gamecocks got off to a rough start in both halves Sunday afternoon against Presbyterian at the Colonial Life Arena, drawing a challenge from coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks responded by pulling away late for a 52-24 victory over the Blue Hose to improve to 5-1 on the season.

It's been said often that it's better to win ugly than lose pretty. Winning ugly is exactly what the South Carolina women's basketball team did Sunday afternoon against Presbyterian College in a 52-24 win at the Colonial Life Arena. Tina Roy led all scorers with a career-high 15 points, all on three-pointers, to lead all scorers. It was Roy's four second-half three-pointers that helped the Gamecocks extend what was just a 27-22 lead with 11:38 left to play.

"Her role is just to be ready," head coach Dawn Staley said of Roy. "Tina can shoot the ball; she can shoot it from deep and score the ball. We want her to be able to stretch defenses out a little bit. We have put at point guard because she's a big guard and can handle the ball pretty well."

The first half was a struggle for both teams. Carolina shot just 9-of-29 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line and turned the ball over eight times. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, Presbyterian was even worse, shooting 6-of-16 from the floor, 0-for-4 from the free throw line and turned the ball over 12 times as the Gamecocks led 22-13 at the break.

The Blue Hose would not go quietly early in the second half. Sherece Smith and Dria David, who combined to score 15 of Presbyterian's 24 points, kept the Blue Hose alive early in the half. As the Gamecocks continued to struggle, scoring just five points in the first 8:22 of the half, the Blue Hose slowly chipped away, trimming the lead to five points. Staley pulled the starting group, who managed to score just 10 points all night and turned the ball over 10 times, in favor of the second group.

"I just basically told them to get us going," Staley said of what she told the second group. "That same group does play a lot together in practice so I'm not hesitant to play them together. I knew they would just give us a different look, especially with Aleighsa (Welch) and Ashley (Bruner) who work well together. On shots we didn't make I thought they gave us some second chances to score points with offensive rebounds."

That second group included Roy, who hit two three-pointers during a 13-0 Gamecock run that stretched the seven point lead out to 20 at 40-20.

"We just wanted to go in and execute, but she always told us to be ready when the time comes," Roy said. "I feel like my shot is getting better because I've put in extra time after practice trying to get shots up"

The 24 points given up by the Gamecocks tied a school record for points allowed. In 1992 the Gamecocks limited Georgia Southern to 24 points as well.

"We play a certain way – we disrupt," Staley said. "I think that's what we did to them. They did get a couple of back-doors when we knew they were going back-door. I got on our players because people can beat us when we don't know what's coming, but when we know what's coming we should be well-prepared for that. I think the second group came in and made adjustments to what we need to do to decrease the amount of shots they got in their comfort zone."

Staley was disappointed with the play of her starting five that consists of four seniors and a junior, and could make some changes in the near future. That could mean more playing time for freshmen Roy and Welch and the junior Bruner.

"I just told them that they have to find a way to play better together or we're going to have to make some changes," Staley said. "Obviously we have to get off to better starts in the first half and second half, and if they can't do that I have to make some changes. I don't know what those changes will be but certainly we can't continue to start halves that way."

Bruner finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Welch added nine points and three rebounds and Markeshia Grant finished with six points, all in the first half.

The road gets tough for the Gamecocks the next two games. Carolina will head up to Cincinnati Wednesday to take on Xavier. The Muskateers have struggled lately, dropping three straight, but two of the three were to top 10 teams Louisville and Stanford. Carolina then travels to Raleigh, North Carolina to take on the NC State Wolfpack next Sunday, who are off to a 4-0 start entering Sunday's match-up at Creighton. After that match-up, the Gamecocks will get a week off for exams before hosting Furman on December 11th.

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