Freshman A’ja Wilson did not disappoint in the first appearance of her collegiate career on Sunday night at Colonial Life Arena. The McDonald’s All-American led all scorers with 18-points and notched a game-high 10 rebounds.
Playing on the defensive side of the ball, Wilson said she spent extra time getting ready.
“It’s been great so far. I enjoy being up there,” said A’ja Wilson. “Defense is something that I need to work on, and Coach Staley and the girls are really helping me out with that. So, I felt comfortable up there because we’ve just been over it so much in practice.”
Coker didn’t have a chance in the first, not bringing in a single point for nearly 11-minutes into the game. It wasn’t until there was 4:36 left on the clock in the first half before the Cobras put their first points on the board.
Holding Coker to 25-points in the game, the Gamecocks pulled down 18 offensive rebounds.
Wilson and Aleighsa Welch brought in a combined 10-points on the initial run of the afternoon, bringing the Gamecocks up 18-5 just 6:30 into the game.
“I thought all through the first half we did a pretty good job of just having the energy and the intensity that we play with night-in and night-out. We did play a lot more zone in the second half because of the score, which is something we’ve been playing with as well,” said head coach Dawn Staley. “ I thought it got better as the half went on and hopefully we can get pretty solid at both areas.”
South Carolina scored on 48 of its 68 possessions in the contest. Sophomore Alaina Coates posted three straight baskets down low, with assist by junior Tina Roy. With under six minutes to go in the half, USC put five new players on the court.
“We were very excited from being in the locker room to shooting around,” said Alaina Coates following the match-up. “We were very excited about it. We were ready for the season to start since last year when it ended. We were just ready to get back out there.”
Freshman Bianca Cuevas sailed in a jumper and the Gamecocks first three-pointer of the game on back-to-back possessions, putting South Carolina up 41-6.
Halftime brought in a 51-13 advantage for USC, and the score grew to be the three-digit sinker for the Gamecocks to take the ‘W’.
The Gamecocks were named to the No. 2 spot in the AP Top 25 Preseason Rankings, but Coates said its not going to be all smooth sailing this season.
“We know it’s going to take a lot of hard work. We can’t just go out here thinking ‘oh we are going to beat everybody’,” stated Coates, “We know that we have a long way to go.”
It will be a tricky one for South Carolina as they face the other USC at Colonial Life November 15th.
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” said A’Ja Wilson. “I think we’ve got to prepare ourselves well for that game, and I think we both (Alaina Coates) know our ultimate goal is but we also know our separate goals for that specific game.”
A Hopkins, S.C. native, Wilson was the No. 1 player in the country coming out of Heathwood Hall. The freshman earned state player of the year three years in a row, was named Naismith and Parade Magazine Player of the Year as a senior, and helped the United States to a gold medal in the 2014 FIBA U18 Championship.
There is no doubt Wilson will be an influential part of this team’s make-up this season, and it clearly showed in Sunday’s match-up.
The Gamecocks will have some fierce opponents coming in this year, including reigning champs the UConn Huskies.
This season, South Carolina will face five preseason-ranked teams.
Dec. 7 @ No. 7 Duke
Jan. 11 vs. No. 11 Kentucky
Jan. 27 vs. No. 5 Texas A&M
Feb. 9 @ No. 1 UConn
Feb. 23 vs. No. 4 Tenn.
March 1 @ No. 11 Kentucky
South Carolina will hit the court again in two weeks. GamecockPride.com will keep you updated on the Gamecocks throughout their season.