ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP)Mikiah Herbert Harrigan scored 20 points and No. 5 South Carolina led from the start in beating Washington State 68-53 on Friday night at the Paradise Jam tournament.
Freshman Aliyah Boston, who was born on St. Thomas, added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Gamecocks (7-1), who recovered from losing to No. 17 Indiana by 14 points 24 hours earlier.
”We just had good movement and fluidity offensively,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. ”But what dictated that was what we were doing defensively. We disrupted and made it hard for them at times, and made them fight for every point they got.”
Chanelle Molina scored 17 points for the Cougars (4-2), who have now lost two straight to Top 25 opponents after opening the season with four consecutive wins.
Behind Boston, who had 11 first-half points, the Gamecocks opened the first quarter with a 13-2 run over the first 4 1/2 minutes and went on to lead 25-9 at the end of the period. South Carolina went on to lead by 19 points twice in the second quarter, the last at 32-13 on Herbert Harrigan’s jumper with six minutes left.
However, Washington State turned things around later that period, closing out the second quarter with a 13-2 run over the final two minutes, capped by Cherilyn Molina’s layup with three seconds remaining that cut South Carolina’s lead to 37-32 at the break.
The Gamecocks responded, opening the second half with a 13-3 run over the first four minutes of the third quarter, with Herbert Harrigan’s jumper with 6:09 left giving South Carolina a 50-35 lead. The Cougars would pull no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
”Overall, we just don’t have enough really, really, really good ballhandlers,” Washington State head coach Kamie Ethridge said. ”Against their athletes and length, it just put us in really hard positions. We just struggled getting the ball moving against their length.
”But that’s the biggest thing – trying to keep our chin up a little bit knowing that we’re playing two Top 10s, and maybe Indiana sneaks up there as good as they’re playing. The fact that we put some quarters together gives us some encouragement that if we can find some consistency and some depth, it will help us a little bit.”
South Carolina: Friday’s win was a nice bounceback for the Gamecocks, who struggled with fouls and their outside shooting in Thursday’s loss to No. 17 Indiana.
Washington State: The Cougars have taken on back-to-back Top 25 opponents for the first time since a three-game stretch against then-No. 6 Stanford, No. 5 Oregon and No. 9 Oregon State in January 2019 – and now they have a third ranked opponent coming Saturday.
After shooting 36.9% and making only 2 of 19 3-pointers in Thursday’s 71-57 loss to Indiana, South Carolina’s numbers were much better against Washington State. The Gamecocks shot 47.5%, and only attempted five 3-pointers, making two of them.
South Carolina’s defense forced Washington State into 21 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Gamecocks. Meanwhile, the Cougars managed just 11 points off 12 turnovers.
South Carolina wraps up play at Paradise Jam against No. 2 Baylor on Saturday.
Washington State takes on No. 17 Indiana in its tournament finale Saturday.