NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)South Carolina coach Dawn Staley is pushing her fifth-ranked Gamecocks to keep improving no matter the score.
That focus was tested Thursday night, and the Gamecocks came through with a strong performance.
Victaria Saxton scored 20 points and South Carolina routed Vanderbilt 106-43 on Thursday night to remain perfect in the Southeastern Conference.
”It’s all an effort to have a big picture mentality, meaning you don’t play for the scoreboard, you play for the moment,” Staley said.
Her Gamecocks (9-1, 4-0) did just that in winning their 20th straight after going undefeated in league play last season, and they are four wins away from matching their longest SEC winning streak. South Carolina won 24 straight between Jan. 3, 2016, and Jan. 26. 2017.
Brea Beal also scored 17 points, Destanni Henderson added 12, and Laeticia Amihere had 11. Preseason All-American Aliyah Boston had seven points and 10 rebounds in the Gamecocks’ second-highest scoring game this season.
South Carolina also won its sixth straight overall and 13th consecutive game in this series, improving to 14-2 with Dawn Staley as coach.
Koi Love led Vanderbilt (4-3, 0-2) with 18 points. Only eight Commodores played compared to 11 for the Gamecock with only one South Carolina player playing less than 13 minutes.
”Obviously, South Carolina’s a national championship contender, and they were relentless for 40 minutes,” Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White said. ”Their size, their length, their versatility. They’re great in transition, they’re great on the defensive end of the floor. It’s a tough matchup for us anywhere, let alone when we’re so limited in our numbers.”
The Gamecocks never trailed as Boston opened the scoring with a jumper. They quickly pushed their lead to double digits thanks to a 12-2 run and simply dominated again at Memorial Gym. They led 30-13 after the first quarter and 49-13 at halftime.
Staley said she was proud of how the Gamecocks played defensively, staying engaged for 98% of the game against a Vanderbilt offense featuring constant movement.
”It was a good game for us to gauge ourselves and try to put another notch under our belt to having some type of identity on the defensive side of the ball,” Staley said.
The Commodores struggled to score with their worst drought starting late in the first quarter after Kyndall Golden’s layup with 2:27 pulled Vandy to 27-13. They missed all 16 shots in the second quarter.
Yaubryon Chambers finally scored on a layup 9:37 into the third quarter to break Vanderbilt’s drought. South Carolina still led 82-27 at the end of the third.
South Carolina: This was just the second time that the Gamecocks had not allowed a point in a quarter. The last time was Jan. 30, 2020, against Ole Miss. They dominated the paint on both ends, outscoring Vandy 66-32 in that area. They also had a 60-28 edge on the boards and a 41-12 advantage in fast-break points.
Vanderbilt: This is the Commodores’ second straight loss after having one game canceled and three others postponed. They now have lost 21 straight to top five programs.
MOVING ON UP
This win was the 142nd of the SEC regular season for Staley, moving her into fourth place in the category. Staley broke a tie with Van Chancellor who had 141 wins in 20 seasons at Ole Miss. Chancellor also was Staley’s Olympic coach in 2004 in Athens. Staley is two back of Texas A&M coach Gary Blair (144).
South Carolina: Hosts Arkansas on Monday night.
Vanderbilt: At No. 12 Kentucky on Sunday.
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