By Jeff Owens | Photo by Allen Sharpe
CHARLOTTE — Mikiah Herbert Harrigan didn’t find out until just before South Carolina’s first-round game Friday that she would not play in the first half due to disciplinary issues.
With one of their top players on the bench in the first half, the Gamecocks rallied from a slow start to survive their first-round game against Belmont and advance to Round 2.
When Herbert Harrigan found out just before the game Sunday that she would be available to play the whole game against Florida State, should was ready to step up and do what she does best.
“Just being ready when my number is called and going out and performing,” said Herbert Harrigan, who led the Gamecocks with 20 points in their 72-64 win over Florida State.
Herbert Harrigan and senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore were both held out of the first-round game due to disciplinary reasons. Cuevas-Moore did not play against Belmont, while Herbert Harrigan played only 10 minutes of the second half.
Staley told Herbert Harrigan before Sunday’s game that she would be allowed to play against Florida State.
“I said, ‘Kiki, you are going to play today. She said, ‘I know, I read in the media that I am fully available,’” Staley said.
She was not only available, but impactful. Herbert Harrigan scored 13 first-half points to lead South Carolina to a 37-30 advantage after two quarters. She ended the half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“[Point guard] Ty [Harris] came off the screen, they were guarding her, so she kicked it out and I knocked the shot down,” Herbert Harrigan said. “I was just feeling good. … I was just confident in my shot.”
She added seven points in the second half, including a big jumper with 4:55 remaining to give the Gamecocks a 60-56 lead. She also grabbed six rebounds and had three blocked shots.
“Kiki is a different breed,” guard Te’a Cooper said. “I mean, she comes off the bench and brings energy, blocks, defense, offense. She’s a force to be reckoned with. She’s the best on both ends of the floor.”
Her ability to score both inside and outside put pressure on Florida State, which controlled the boards throughout the game.
“She made a big difference,” Harris said. “She is a good player. Her shot is water. She brings a different aspect to the game. She can stretch out the defense and the post players. We try to get the ball to her down low or on the high post so she can attack or shoot a jump shot.”
“Kiki is a hard guard,” Staley said. “She is someone who can put the ball on the floor and her mid-range is efficient enough to where you have to play her. She’s long and she gets blocked shots when she is on the floor.”
Staley said she had no choice but to suspend Herbert Harrigan and Cuevas-Moore on Friday, but said their offenses were “minimal.”
“They are young people and sometimes young people don’t see the severity of what they do. And what they did is minimal, I mean minimal,” she said. “I just drew a line in the sand. For us, we’ve got to do things the right way. And when we do things the right way, we win the right way. That’s what it was all about.”
She was glad to have her star forward back on the floor Sunday.
“A lot of things can happen out there on the positive side, so having her ready to go and ready to compete always gives us an extra boost,” Staley said.