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South Carolina pulls away from JU in 2nd half

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COLUMBIA, S.C.

Alaina Coates had 22 points and 10 rebounds, A'ja Wilson had 15 points and 11 rebounds as No. 1 seed South Carolina ran past first-time NCAA Tournament team Jacksonville 77-41 on Friday night.

 

The Gamecocks (32-1) won their fifth straight NCAA opener and will take on ninth-seeded Kansas State on Sunday night for a spot in the Sweet 16.

 

The Dolphins (22-11) were the Atlantic Sun Conference champions who came in with an eight-game winning streak. They were no match, however, for the tall, strong twin post-presence of 6-foot-4 Coates and 6-5 Wilson.

 

Wilson, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, had six quick points to put South Carolina ahead for good. Jacksonville, whose tallest player is 6-1, had no way to respond as the Gamecocks continued to find Wilson and Coates underneath for easy baskets.

 

Briona Brown had 17 points to lead Jacksonville. "It's been an amazing journey," said Brown. "I love my teammates. I love my coaching staff. My senior year was one to remember. This was a moment that I'll remember forever, and I have everyone behind me to thank for that." 

 

Tiffany Mitchell had 14 points for South Carolina, who has beaten its past five first-round opponents by an average of 27 points.

 

Jacksonville was ready to enjoy its first NCAA Tournament experience and, as coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said Thursday, maybe "throw a little scare" into the Gamecocks.

 

That did not happen, although the Dolphins did hold a 2-0 lead on Sherranda Riddick's two foul shots. Jacksonville didn't score again for another six minutes as the Gamecocks steadily took over.

 

They were ahead by nine points at the end of the quarter and led 32-21 at the break.

 

Wilson was her dominant self, the Southeastern Conference player of the year scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds the first two quarters.

 

Jacksonville couldn't hold up against South Carolina's quick hands and pressure defense. The Gamecocks forced 21 turnovers and finished with 14 steals, their third highest total this season.

 

"Hats off to South Carolina," said Head Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. "They were everything we expected them to be. As far as my team is concerned, I can't even put into words how proud I am. To be able to come on this stage and compete, and represent for ourselves, our family, the university and the Atlantic Sun, I wouldn't have it any other way. We'll be back."