LeLe Grissett: a jumper, a layup and a free throw. Laeticia Amihere: two layups. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan: a jumper and a layup. Aliyah Boston and Victaria Saxton: one layup each. Free throws from Brea Beal, Zia Cooke and Ty Harris.
Eight players and eight scorers, all in one quarter, as No. 5 South Carolina (11-1) pushed its lead from two to 18 over Duke (7-4, 1-0 ACC) in its eventual 89-46 never-in-doubt victory on Thursday night.
South Carolina had eight players score eight or more points, led by 12 points each from Cooke and Grissett, 11 from Harris and 10 each from Beal, Boston and Herbert Harrigan. Grissett made all four of her two-point shot attempts and all four of her free-throw attempts tonight. She also had three rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist.
South Carolina forced Duke into 30 turnovers and outscored the Blue Devils 41-7 in points scored off turnovers.
“We talk to our players a lot about two things, distance and element of surprise,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “When you have those two things going for you and you have a knack for defending, we say go for it. Go double someone. Go steal the ball. And I think it become contagious.
“I don’t think our team ever defended like we defended tonight, as far as taking space away.”
It’s Duke’s worst loss since a Virginia team with Staley at point guard beat them 93-48 in 1992.
“We were very defensive minded, but we also could score in a lot of different ways,” Staley of her ’92 Virginia team that fell in the Final Four. “So it’s very similar.
“I just hope it doesn’t end the same way.”
“The key for me was just to stay hype,” said Cooke, who had two steals. “ … Coach tells us to know our personnel, so I had to make sure I knew my personnel and knew where I had to push certain players. I just knew I had to pressure them.
“Our defense, it’s what people really see about us.”
The Gamecocks entered Thursday no stranger to a balanced scoring attack. While the team ranked 15th nationally in points per game, no individual Gamecock was among the nation’s top 250 in scoring average.
The balanced attack and a 21-5 second quarter was followed by a 26-11 third quarter for the Gamecocks.
“Our defense is what got us going,” Grissett said. “We started running in transition and getting open shots, and I think that’s what did it for us.”
“We played very, very young, trying to make things happen right away,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Trying to force issues that didn’t need to be forced.”
Back-to-back 3s from Harris and Cooke popped the bubble and gave South Carolina a 49-23 lead four minutes into the third quarter.
By the time Herbert Harrigan swished a 3 from in front of the South Carolina bench three minutes into the fourth quarter to give the home team a 77-34 lead, Elysa Wesolek and Olivia Thompson, the only two Gamecocks who had yet to play, were set to check in.
There were seven lead changes in the first half, all in the first quarter, and no team led by more than four until South Carolina did almost three minutes in to the second quarter.
A balanced attack kept the Gamecocks in it early.
Harris and Beal both hit 3s in the opening sequence and, by the time the home team led 13-12 at the 5:20 mark of the second quarter, all five starters had scored. Then guard Destanni Henderson came off the bench and, with a layup just over two minutes before the end of the first quarter, made it six scorers and a 15-12 Gamecock lead.
Grissett then got into the mix with a short jumper from the left side to give South Carolina the first six-point lead for either team, at 20-14, about two minutes into the second quarter. Moments later she pushed it to 25-16 with a three-point play.