No. 8 Gamecocks dump No. 12 Lady Vols out of SEC tourney

Associated Press • Mar 2, 2018 at 10:27 PM

NASHVILLE — Dawn Staley didn’t know if A’ja Wilson would play until just before tipoff, needing South Carolina’s medical staff to sign off on the three-time Southeastern Conference player of the year’s health. Staley still limited Wilson’s minutes and brought her off the bench.

Turns out Wilson doesn’t need much time at all to show how valuable she is.

Wilson had 24 points and 12 rebounds in just 19 minutes, and eighth-ranked South Carolina beat No. 12 Tennessee 73-62 on Friday night in the Southeastern Conference women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals.

“Hopefully, I can get back in that starting lineup,” Wilson said, looking at Staley.

The Gamecocks (24-6) are back in the semifinals in their hunt for a fourth straight tournament title, which has never been done in the SEC. They will play No. 14 Missouri or No. 19 Georgia in the semifinals Saturday.

Staley wasn’t even sure if Wilson would play in the SEC tournament after she missed the regular season finale at Tennessee with vertigo.Wilson came off the bench with 6:29 left in the first quarter. She scored six points and grabbed three rebounds to prove quickly she’s healthy, though she did need a breather in the second half.

“I just had to get a breather, gather myself,” Wilson said.

Alexis Jennings had 19 points and 12 rebounds for South Carolina. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan also had 15.

Tennessee (24-7) lost for the 100th time in SEC play in program history after the Lady Vols’ worst shooting performance of the season. Anastasia Hayes led Tennessee with 17 points, and Jaime Nared added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Mercedes Russell had 12 points.

“We missed a lot of bunnies, a lot of easy layups, wide open layups, jumpers that we normally make,” Nared said. “We know they’re a good team, they’re a long team, but we missed a lot of buckets that we normally make.”

Tennessee had its only lead at 3-2 before a pair of free throws by Cliney put the Gamecocks ahead to stay. South Carolina led 16-9 after the first quarter and 33-23 at halftime. The Lady Vols scored eight straight to pull within 46-43 of the Gamecocks.

Herbert Harrigan’s jumper started a 13-0 run by South Carolina, and Doniyah Cliney’s 3 capped the spurt with 8:15 left and a 59-43 lead. The Gamecocks led by as many as 18 with Tennessee not hitting a shot in the fourth until Nared’s jumper with 6:38 left.

The Lady Vols hit just 8 of 40 shots (20 percent) in the first half and finished with a season-low 26.7 percent (23-for-86).

The Gamecocks outrebounded Tennessee 50-43 and had a 46-36 scoring edge in the paint. That helped them overcome a season-high 27 turnovers the Lady Vols turned into 26 points.

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